The backyard soccer game had just begun. In the excitement of the moment, one of my children kicked the soccer ball too hard and it went sailing over the neighbor’s fence. As the game came to a dramatic halt, I heard one of my children say, “I can’t stand this new yard. It is just too small for us.” Giving up on their soccer game, they decided to swing. The swing set began to rock back and forth, bringing one of the legs off the ground. For fear of breaking the swing set, I told the older children they would have to stop. My words were met with the same sense of frustration that had shortened the soccer game as one of them said, “There is nothing here for us to do. Our old house was better.” Trying to stay positive, I smiled and said, “I’m really sorry you feel that way, but let’s be thankful God has given us this new house.” However, honestly on the inside I was mad too. It felt like we had given up everything to follow God, and now our children couldn’t even play. Our old house had a large yard where no kick was too strong, and our old swing set could accommodate the largest child with no problem. It truly was better.
Later that evening, I was working on a project and looking for a photograph that was taken several years ago. Scrolling through years of photographs taken at our old house again caused feelings of anger to rise in me as I thought about all I had given up.
In that moment the story of Moses came to mind.
I remember loving the stories about Moses when I was a child. Just thinking about all the plagues of frogs, flies, dying livestock, and total darkness is enough to send any childhood imagination soaring! You also have the pillar of fire and a cloud leading their way, and just when you think it couldn’t get more exciting, they cross the Red Sea! To a child this is all very exciting, however, as an adult I am amazed by part of the story that I didn’t really pay much attention to as a child. The Israelites actually thought several times the idea of serving as slaves to the Egyptians was better than freedom and being led by God. Though far from ideal, I imagine a life of slavery in Egypt was at least predictable. Suddenly, free from bondage, the Israelites had to begin to live a new way. They had to learn to trust God for their daily provision and learn to live without a 10-year plan. They were going to be led by a pillar of fire and a cloud with God providing food supernaturally on a daily basis. Can you imagine Moses telling everyone the game plan? “Okay, today we are following that cloud in the sky”. It is laughable. When the manna fell from heaven, they were told to only take the food they needed for the current day. Yet, some didn’t trust and took two days worth. Greed was exposed. Lack of trust was revealed. Even seeing God do the miraculous such as parting the Red Sea, the children of Israel desired to return to their old lives because it was familiar. Being led by God seemed risky and took them out of their comfort zone. It didn’t require trust and faith in the miraculous to stay in Egypt. That is why one minute they are singing songs of victory and dancing with tambourines, and the next they are mad at Moses, asking if they were led out in the desert to die. It is easy to judge them and question how they could be so foolish.
However, as I sat looking at pictures of my old house, I realized I am not so different than the Israelites. I have similar questions in my own heart. Questions like “How long will we be in a rental house?” or “What are we going to do next?” and “How will we make a living?” often cause me to long for my own “Egypt.” I currently have no answer for these questions. I might as well say, “You see that cloud in the sky. We are following it.”
Because pursuing God’s plan takes you out of your comfort zone, it often feels risky and foolish.
Yet, I also know there is more to the story. Moses and the Israelites would never have seen the Red Sea part had they stayed in slavery. They would never have seen what it was like to see God provide in new and incredible ways had they not depended on Him one day at a time.
Also as I reread the Exodus account this past week, I finally understood the most important point of the story. The story isn’t really about the Israelites. The story is about the Lord and His glory. Over and over you see God saying to Moses that He will display His power to show He is Lord. Each new miracle brings about the opportunity for God to reveal himself to Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Israelites and all who hear the accounts in the future.
It is a beautiful picture when you see the whole story. God reveals His glory through His people, and at the same time, His people are learning to trust and obey Him while having their hearts exposed and motives revealed. It’s no different for us today.
While I can’t provide a bigger yard for a soccer game or a swing that won’t break if my bigger children swing on it, with God’s help I can change my perspective. I can realize that all the minor and major trials provide an opportunity to see God’s glory revealed. They expose my heart and help me to see the things such as a lack of trust and selfishness that hinder me from fully following the Lord. Maybe if I saw these obstacles as opportunities for God to show His glory through me, I wouldn’t be so tempted to run from them. Because just like with the Israelites, the story is not about me. It is about God and His glory.