Sunday, March 5, 2017

Direction

My dad is like a human GPS. He knows road names and routes and directions like nobody else.
I remember one time my aunt asked me what I did if I didn't know how to get somewhere.
Without hesitation or another thought, I replied, "I just ask my dad."
And as simple as that might have been that day, I began thinking about it recently again and I realized it holds a greater significance. When life unfolds to a place that is unknown, when I am looking in different directions or when I must choose a path to walk, I wonder is it my Father that I look to for answers or do I get distracted by the backseat drivers of my life?
I'd love to simply say that anytime I face uncertainty, I seek God's answers immediately, but too often I look to myself or others instead. I have learned that seeking God's will is more than just checking that He agrees with what we desire. It's about surrendering the outcome, even if that's completely opposite of what we had in mind.
This idea of surrender and God's will has followed me lately. I've read a lot about paths as my morning devotionals seem to have me camped out with the Israelites. I've seen them delivered from the Egyptians, wandering the desert and finally crossing the threshold of the Promised Land. I've felt their weight of discouragement as deliverance got delayed, felt the sting of disappointment as idols were built and the relentless pursuit of God's love through it all. And I've found wisdom from Moses and Joshua and marveled over the way they led generations of God's people. There is so much to learn!
One thing that keeps standing out to me in all these stories though are the different roads and journeys the people keep walking. Some are towards God; some are away from God. Some seem to be headed towards possibilities while others seem to take them backwards but in all those paths, I see choices. Every place they go, every decision and every attitude is a choice that echoes into eternity. And I have to ask myself, when it comes to these choices in my life am I asking for help or forging my own steps ahead into the unknown? Am I declaring, "God whatever comes my way, I will trust You" (Sovereign, Chris Tomlin).
One passage found in Exodus 13:17-18 says,
"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them them on the road through the Philistine country though it was shorter. For God said, "if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt...so God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea."
I can't help but pause right there. In those verses we find a huge truth. One that kind of floors me. Sometimes God leads us the long way to stop us from turning back.
I've definitely been there before; you know that feeling that you are between Egypt and a hard place. That feeling that you are in the desert and you know you can't go back but moving forwards seems almost impossible. Turning back is so alluring, but God desires more for us. He wants us to go the distance. He wants a greater life for us. And so should we, no matter the difficulties.
God doesn't need a map or a GPS, He knows where you are at and He knows how easy it is to go back to old ways and old habits when things get hard. God also knows how satan loves to stop us from making progress any way he can. The desert is more than just a wasteland; it is more about perseverance. The long way is about faithfulness, not convenience. And I think too often when we come to that place in life, we just stop. We set up camp and live half the life we were intended because we don't know which way to go. The desert seems better than nothing. And we are tired of walking. Of fighting. Of waiting. It's true, sometimes the route God takes us is long, but oh how the lesson is lasting.
I came across a Tim Tebow quote from his book, Shaken that says it like this:
"Certainly there is a time to wait on God, but rarely is there a time to do absolutely nothing. You know what happens when we do nothing? Nothing! You have to start doing something that can make a difference. Don't let life get in the way of choosing to impact others. There's always something to do. Pay attention. Look around. Listen. God just might be speaking" (Tebow, 167).
I love that challenge because sometimes I look around and wonder where in the world God is taking me and I am tempted to put up a tent like the Israelites and wait it out until the path clears. I want to be able to see what I am getting myself into, but with that mentality I run the risk of never going any further.
I don't know where your paths and steps and roads are leading right now. Maybe they are certain. Maybe they are not. Maybe you find yourself on the long way around. Or maybe you've gotten comfortable in the desert. Wherever it is, I want to encourage you to keep taking steps. Keep looking towards that promise. Keep walking even when you stumble. And when you come to a place that is uncertain, just ask your Father. He knows. He holds every detail, every hope and every fear. He sees the place you are at and walks it with you. If you need to find your way out of the desert, look to the promise. For it is in the truth of God's Word that you will find guidance. Directions are easy when you ask the right person. They will get you where you are going every time.
Take to heart the very words that Moses gave to the Israelites, "Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again. The Lord will fight for you and you can be still" (Exodus 14:13-14). Look your Egypt in the eye, shake the desert off your feet and watch what the Lord can do. He is waiting and ready to help lead you in new directions.
-Only Hope

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