The Roundabout Way

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 an army ready for battle. -Exodus 3:17-18.

I hope you had a fantastic ThanksOver celebration with your friends and families. I had one of the best ones ever. The food was over the top delicious and my home was filled with laughter and good conversations. The only thing that would’ve made it better would’ve been the presence of the three family (or close to being official family) members that couldn’t make it this year.

Wednesday and Thursday I was over the moon excited about just about everything in my life. I was singing the song Promised Land over and over so much that at times I woke up in the night singing it. I could see the Promised Land for me and my family. Friday I was happy about my Promised Land, but no longer excited. Saturday, I was blah. I didn’t really have the energy to think about my Promised Land. By this morning I was like “I don’t really want to hear or think about my Promised Land.”

Do you ever get like that? Do you ever find yourself all excited about God’s promises one day, and within 72 hours not only do you barely believe them, but you actually feel irritated by the thought of them?

There isn’t anything specific that took me from the place of claiming my land to running from it. It’s not like we had something bad occur in the last 72 hours. I simply had the perfect storm of subtle things that brought me from excited to irritated. My hubby has a horrible cold so I have been sleeping (barely) on the couch. The predicted blizzard ended up being more of a 72 hour prison hold where the snow didn’t amount to much, but you still shouldn’t be out driving, which kept me home and away from my prayer meeting and church service. No sleep. No jailbreak. No church. No good!

That bad trifecta left me open to the snake. This morning the Did God Really Say…thoughts began. This time they showed up in the form of When God When? and How Long? 

When God when will I ever write more than an introduction in a book?

When God when will Tom be free from all infirmities?

When God when will I stop going around some of these same mountains in my life?

How long will I be at this job that I am so bored, yet also overwhelmed by?

How long until the desires of my heart are fulfilled?

These thoughts should’ve had me running straight into the Presence of God. I should’ve sat down with my Bible, journal, and pen and let Abba Father’s love wash over me and bring me back to that place of faith, peace, and joy. That’s what I should’ve done…

Instead, I sat in my devotional chair with my Bible, journal, and pen next to me, half heartedly listening to an online church service while online shopping. Mostly for myself. Buying warm and cozy things to make me feel better. Things I don’t need but wanted. How’s that for transparency? How’s that for an example of What Real Women Do when they are tired, hormonal, and tired of the fight?

I ran from God until 3:33pm at which point I couldn’t take it any longer. I poured my heart out to Him. I told him how I was tired and sick of the fight. I told him I didn’t understand why it had to be so hard. I told him I was sick of hearing about the Promised Land and not living in it. I told him I was sick of taking one step forward and two steps back.  I let it all out and held nothing back.

I then opened my Bible and began reading where I left off the other day in Exodus. God answered the cries of my heart in Exodus 3:17-18. 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 an army ready for battle.

I have always looked at the wilderness as a place of preparation. A place where God prepared you by burning out all of the things that cannot come with you into the Promised Land. Things like unbelief, idolatry, fear, doubt, etc. I still see it as that, but I confess I also saw it as kind of a place of withholding.

Remember when your kids were little and they disobeyed you? When my kids were little the “naughty mat” was a common form of discipline. You placed your child on the “naughty mat” and had them think about what they had done. They were not allowed off the naughty mat for a certain amount of minutes (I think one minute per year of age) and they had to give a sincere apology after their time was up. Right or wrong, that was common a decade or so ago.

I didn’t realize until my meltdown today that I have viewed the wilderness as somewhat of God’s “naughty mat”.  Where God says, “You’re going to stay in this place until you no longer do X, Y, and Z. Then, and only then can you get off the wilderness naughty mat and go play in the Promised Land. And f course, you must offer a sincere apology for all the ways you missed it and disobeyed while you were here.”

Somehow I forgot to view the wilderness through the lens of Abba Fathers’ relentless love for us. Everything He does is out of love. When I read those verses today I see that the main reason He brings us the long way, through the wilderness, is to protect us. He doesn’t want us freaking out when we see what lies ahead. The vision and dreams He has for us are so much bigger than the dreams and visions we have for ourselves. If we truly saw where He is leading us we would probably run back to the comforts of Egypt. The place of bondage and pain, but familiar and comfortable nonetheless.

The primary reason for the wilderness route is to protect us from fear. The Israelites had spent the last 430 years in slavery and bondage. They had forgotten how powerful and mighty God was. They had also forgotten they were God’s chosen ones. If they had seen the Philistine giants they would ran right back to Egypt. They had been beaten and told they were worthless for years. It was going to take a while to undo some of the damage that had been done to them in Egypt.

The same is true for us. Until we fully understand who God is, and who we are in Christ, we will run in fear every time we are faced with a battle. However, once we realize who we are, well, there is not a giant in the land that can scare us into running back to Egypt, (or online shopping :).

The wilderness is real. We all go through it. We go through it because God loves us. It’s true that even though God took them the “longer way”, it was the Israelites that made it as long as it was. The longer way was only 12 days journey. As you know, it took them 40 years. That is why we are going to stay in the Old Testament for awhile. We are going to learn from those that have traveled the wilderness before so we can avoid some of the pitfalls that lead to delay in our Promises being fulfilled. We are going to study it remembering to look at the lessons through the lens of God’s love for us. Any other lens distorts the truth of the journey.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your fierce and relentless love. Thank you for waiting for us with open arms at all times. Thank you for your patience as we run and wrestle and struggle with understanding and believing your Promises. Thank you that you love us so much that you lead us through the wilderness and away from any battles we are not ready for so that we do not run in fear back to the things we were once in bondage to. Thank you for not only hearing the cries of our hearts but answering them. Thank you for your Promises. I ask for the gift of faith to increase in each of us so we may understand and comprehend your Promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

 

Embracing the Roundabout Way,

Jen

 

 

 

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