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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There is not where

If you have ever studied the life of Moses, you will find he was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind with God.  He was "real" with God - sharing both his frustrations and his exultation.  He never minced his words - he shot straight from the hip. I think God probably honored this kind of openness and transparency and blessed his leadership of Israel as a result.  There are times when we get so frustrated with the length of time it takes to get ourselves from step "A" to step "B" in this process we call "restoration" or "transformation", right?  I wonder what God would do if we were so totally humble and honest with him like Moses was?  Maybe we would come to see the delay is really a part of the process - it is a time when we purify our emotions, see our thought patterns change, and get rid of a whole lot of dead wood in our lives.  I kind of like the words below, because they express the frustration of Moses' heart.  The people have done nothing but complain about the delay in realizing their goal; the wilderness journey hasn't been a piece of cake; and the passage of time seems to make the waiting unbearable.  Sound like any set of circumstances you might be facing in your own life?
Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”  God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”  Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”  God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”   (Exodus 33:14-17 MSG)
There are times when delays are really opportunities for us to make the transitions in life that God hopes we will make.  The amount of time it takes to make these transitions often depends directly on our response to the things God asks of us.  Moses was straight with God - it was a struggle to lead these people.  He felt like he was going it alone at times.  I think we aren't so different.  God calls us to go somewhere we have never been before in our spiritual lives and we complain we have never been there before.  Along the way to "there" we complain about the "where".  Where we have been, where we are now, and where we will ever end up - all concern us somehow. If God only took us down the "familiar" and "comfortable" path, do you think we'd ever leave Egypt behind?  Egypt represents the old way of living - in slavery, bondage, and despair.  The promised land represented the new way of living - freedom, delight, and hope.  Between "there" and "where", the journey is riddled with a whole lot of "why here" kind of moments!
One thing I have come to appreciate in the place between "there" and "where" is the importance of the moment.  Nothing in the moment seems like it is "perfect", but it is "purposeful".  We unfortunately want the perfect - so we complain about the process.  Some of us get stuck right in the middle for a long, long time - why?  It is simply because we are waiting for the "conditions" to change where we find ourselves right now.  We don't want to step out to see them change, we just want them to change in the midst of the journey right here and now.  Rarely do the conditions change in the midst of the journey - it is the journey which brings the change!  To get the most out of "transition" one has to actually step into the transition!
For most of us, the time factor is the biggest issue - we don't want it to take a whole lot of time for the transition to happen.  It is okay for God to ask for us to make a transition, but does it have to take forever?  Well, we can run ahead of God, but that doesn't usually work out to well for us, does it?  We think we can "arrive" on our own, doing things our way because the timing is too slow for us.  In the end, we end up with a whole lot of do-overs and a lot of time wasted!  So, rushing transition is not the recommendation here.  Yet, remaining in the place of transition for way too long just because we are not willing to move is also just as dangerous.  Both require our immediate attention and refocus.  God put the Israelites (and Moses) in the midst of the wilderness - to rush ahead or lag behind was just not right.  Moses expressed his frustration a time or two with God - both for the delay and the seemingly unwillingness of the people to "get it right" so they could move on!
Ever find yourself smack dab in the middle of being in the "moment", but having a pretty "crappy" attitude?  Well, I have!  To be truthful, I have been a complainer a time or two - complaining to God because the wait is too long, the journey disturbing my "comfort" just a little too much.  In those moments, I have wondered if God might just have abandoned me in the midst of my wilderness.  It is a hard thing to learn the purpose of the process.  A whole lot of things take place in the place between "there" and "where".  One of the most prominent is the change of heart.  I think this is what God is after in the process - the main objective he has for the wilderness is our heart!  Change only happens when the heart is affected.  Try changing if your heart isn't in it. You just don't have the same motivation, do you?  So, in the midst of the wilderness, the focus is our heart.  One of the best ways to know if the heart is changing is by evaluating how "real" we are with God in the midst of the trial.  As we drop the facades, he is able to communicate his plan.  
It may seem a little over-simplified to say the delay could be our willingness to be changed - to get real with God - but I don't think I am far off.  It has proven to be the case in my life time and time again.  If we learn to complain less about the process and open up to God in the reality of the moment, we might just find our journey made a little shorter.  Just sayin!