Most people around the country have already started back to school. Here in Virginia we start back after Labor Day. It always seems weird to not start with everyone else. I thrive in routines so every year when I start seeing my loved ones posting pics of their kiddos and their chalkboard signs I'm a little jealous. Still, there is a beautiful gift that comes with living at the beach and having that extra weekend just for locals. Now, here we are, in the throws of our first day "back".
So how are you doing? How is your family handling the new way of going to school? This year has definitely been challenging on almost every front. We've realized our potential in some areas and realized our limitations in others. I know that personally I've had conversations with the Lord that I've never had to have before. Feelings have surfaced that I didn't know were buried deep in my heart. Some of those feelings felt healthy and cleansing and others just felt ugly and shameful. Through it all, the Lord has been present and close. For that, I am most thankful.
We've realized our potential in some areas and realized our limitations in others.
In Exodus 13:17-18 it says,
When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like and army ready for battle.
I read that the other day and noticed some things I never had before.
First, GOD redirected them. If the scripture hadn't mentioned it and we just read "THEY foolishly did not go along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land," we would be tempted to stress out for them. You took the long way?! WAIT, don't do that! That's such a waste of time! Why didn't God help them take the shorter path?! Why didn't He make it easier on them?! But here we see it was HE who guided them the best way, even though it was the longer way around. It was His provision and protection, His love for them that took them the long way. He knew what was best and He guided them in His way. His ways, most times, when left to our own plans, would never be our first choice.
I do not believe that God caused or desired this pandemic for us, no more than I believe it was His will that His people be enslaved to the Egyptians and have to beg and threaten for their freedom. His will is never to make us suffer and be in pain, especially at the hands of evil tyrants. Still, He explained to us in Genesis that we will live in a fallen world, a world where the choices people make ALWAYS ripple through the lives of others. Sins against others, sins of greed and selfishness, sins of carelessness for human life, sins of oppression against others for the sake of another's power-- all of these things change the lives of everyone in the world. He is well aware of the way other peoples' sins hurt us. Isaiah's words about Jesus tell us
He was despised and rejected-- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the pther way. He was despised, and we did not care. (Isaiah 53:3)
So what we realize in the story in Exodus is that the less convenient, more frustrating way, was actually grace and peace bestowed on His people. It wasn't suffering and frustration being inflicted on them from a God who in His godness disregards human stress and limitations. It was actually grace poured out from a loving Father who very much understood their state of mind and abilities.
the less convenient, more frustrating way, was actually grace and peace bestowed on His people.
Second, we see that He still readied them. I think sometimes we struggle with something and immediately blame God when we feel inadequate. We feel embarrassed and fragile and question why God would have let us end up in that place. We see this with Adam and Eve. It's the first excuse they give for their sin. Yes, Adam blames Eve but he's really blaming God, "It was the woman YOU GAVE ME who gave me the fruit, and I ate it." (Genesis 3:12) God, you knew I was fragile. You knew I was naive and you let me be susceptible to this temptation. God, you knew I was weak. You knew I was vulnerable and you let that person walk into my life. You set me up for failure.
We blame and we fully embrace the victim mentality. Everyone makes mistakes and I was weak. Circumstances did this to me, what choice did I have but to behave this way or lose this battle?
The truth is that your Heavenly Father knows you inside and out, even when you're not all that open to Him, He created you so He still gets full access. He never sets us up for failure. Even when we commit the worst of our sins, a simple reaching out is all it takes to experience His grace and healing and total unconditional forgiveness of everything we've ever done.
The truth is that your Heavenly Father knows you inside and out, even when you're not all that open to Him, He created you so He still gets full access.
He knows our current limitations and even when we're "in training" He walks us around the battles He knows we're not ready for and still calls us "an army ready for battle". When I read those words, I felt the Father's love coming through. HE made sure that got included. Instead of leaving the listener to imagine a weak, insignificant, vulnerable group of people who had to be sheltered, He wants us to walk away seeing their potential, the way He saw them.
2020 has been a battle of sorts and it has been so different for each home. Some have lost significantly, others have mourned with those who have lost and held tightly to that which they have left. Regardless of where you are today, remember that our Heavenly Father is close. He is here and He is guiding. Listen closely for Him and you might find that the things you felt like were sent to hold you back, have actually given you space to breathe and grow while He equips you for the victories ahead. There will be victories ahead and you are not a beggar or a slave or insignificant in His eyes. You are called, you have a purpose, you are chosen and you are a warrior.
2020 has been a battle of sorts and it has been so different for each home.
So, moms, dads, teachers, front line workers, where are you on this journey through 2020? If you stop in the chaos for a moment, where do you see Him moving and leading? How do you find that you are more equipped today for your future victories than you were in February of this year?
You're doing better than you think. What you've accomplished in emotional growth and spiritual vitality this year will equip you in years to come in way that you can't even imagine right now. NOTHING is wasted. EVERYTHING is redeemed for meaning and value in His Kingdom.