Monday, May 23, 2016

Passing Through

Robert Frost once said, "The best way out is always the way through." Most of the time, the way "through" is not always the most comfortable, but it is the most rewarding!  We could all probably fill a book or two with all the things we have been "through", but those which might just rise to the top for me are those which left the most permanent mark on my life.  There are good things, like the birth of my two children - each uniquely lasting memories in my mind which brought such joy.  The purchase of my first home - a fixer-upper to say the least, but mine nonetheless - a place we could call our own.  The day I watched each of my children receive their diplomas from high school - marking a right of passage for each of them and a time of transition for me as my nest would soon be empty and quiet.  The morning my dad passed - with all the corresponding rehearsal of memories we had made through our years together, knowing no more memories would be ever be made. The day my marriage was ended - complete with the lingering darkness and void it left in my soul. We get nowhere in just standing still - we only get out as we go through! Sometimes we don't want "out" because the thing we are going "through" is rather enjoyable, but at others, we cannot find the "other side" quick enough!

When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm; you will not be engulfed in raging rivers. If it seems like you’re walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs, keep going; you won’t be burned.  (Isaiah 43:2 VOICE)


There is much "meat" in this passage for the hungry soul - the soul yearning for "passage" from where they are now to where they really desire to be.  Notice God doesn't tell us "if" we face stormy seas - it is "when" we face them.  To me, this speaks of the inevitability of the storms - they cannot be permanently avoided. We will go through them - so we need to know how to make it through those dark places and to not linger too long in those places where we are only meant to "pass through".

God comes into the midst of our storm, but he never arrives empty-handed.  He brings endurance and calm - two things we cannot muster on our own.  We might think we could endure, but when the waves start tossing us a little more aggressively than we might like, we want a life vest, don't we?  One would think God would bring calm, but why endurance?  If he is the all-powerful one, why doesn't he just calm everything down, set everything in order, and let us get on with life?  I think it is a little obvious - we don't get much of anything out of the storm that way!  Deliverance might be a good plan in our eyes, but endurance is God's!  He knows the storm has lessons within it, so he gives us endurance in order to make it "through".

Next, we need to see that no matter how "engulfing" the storm, we won't be overtaken by it.  Two word pictures are given here - that of the waves engulfing the one on the high seas, and one of the fire licking at our heels.  If you have ever sailed the seas, you might have looked down from the railing of the ship to see dark and expansive water.  As far as you could look, water was in your view and not a speck of land was to be seen.  The waters churned underneath you, but the depth of their expanse was totally unrealized to you.  You were "sailing over" them, safe in a large sailing vessel.  Imagine being out there in a canoe!  The moment a small swell started to toss you here and there, you might begin to consider the expanse and the depth of the waters a little more carefully!  We sometimes don't know the "engulfing" power of the seas we set sail on until we realize how small we are in comparison to the effects of the sea!  

The fire licking at our heels may not seem like much, but most know the reality of fire - it is fueled by the storm!  The winds serve to increase the size of those flames, spreading red-hot embers into places previously unaffected by the fiery flames.  Worse yet, the effects of the smoke creep closer and closer until everything in the path of that smoke plume are engulfed in its darkness and smothering hold.  The fire may get close - for licking at your heels is closer than I'd like.  Yet, the fire can do no damage to one who is covered with the fire retardant only God provides!  Forest fires are fought by valiant men and women who learn an important skill - to duck and cover when the flames turn their way.  In the midst of the fire, the most effective means of escape isn't always to outrun it - sometimes we allow it to pass over us, "ducking and covering" under God's grace until the flames have passed us by.  Just sayin!