You know those sermons you are listening to and you feel a little creeped out? I don’t mean the speaker is being creepy, because that’s obviously not okay. I mean the sermons where you find yourself looking around and over your shoulder to make sure the whole room isn’t just staring at you because you feel like every word the pastor is saying is directed right at you- maybe that’s just me?
Well I found myself in this situation a few Sundays ago. I was sitting in a church service next to my mom and the more the pastor spoke, the more all of my emotions were welling up. After a while, I wasn’t quite listening to the pastor anymore and instead the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding, as is the Spirit’s nature. I was listening to my Father connect these stories throughout His story in a way I had never seen before.
The message was about Miriam, the mother of Moses, a story I had heard many times before, I mean I owned The Prince of Egypt VHS tape, okay? But this was a part of Miriam’s story I had never really focused on. At the time, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and the Egyptians were fearful because of how fast their population was growing that the Israelites would rise up and revolt against them. So, the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh (a word I’m still learning how to spell) made a law that whenever a male Israelite was born, he was to be thrown in the river. Absolutely terrible. [Side note while I’ve got you here. Feel how angry you are that those baby boys were thrown into the river. This same “gendercide” is still happening in China due to the 1-child, now 2-child policy. Families would rather have boys to “continue their family” so they don’t keep the girls. Learn more at http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/gendercide.]
So Miriam, a young Israelite mother was pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy she named Moses. She knew she had to follow the rule, that there was no way to keep him in her house and raise him. So, she built this awesome waterproof baby basket, wrapped Moses up, and put him in the river. What happens next is the coolest part to me. So Moses’ little raft/basket floats down the river and over to Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh’s daughter happened to be out there to find the basket. She called for ladies to help her rescue, nurture, and eventually raise this baby and guess who one of those ladies was? Miriam, mother of Moses.
It took an act of bravery, sacrifice, using her good judgment, and listening to the Lord, but through that risk, Miriam was able to raise her baby.
And Miriam’s story is so encouraging and awesome, but also not isolated in scripture. And the Lord began to reveal to me this pattern of people sacrificing and believing, and taking small brave steps to let go of what they loved most in order to end the end receive it.
I thought of Hannah in 1 Samuel who wanted a son so desperately she was praying on the steps at the synagogue and weeping to the degree the Rabbi walked up and asked if she was drunk. After praying and petitioning with God, she finally said that if she could have a son, she would give him to the Lord. Soon, Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel.
I thought of Abraham who was promised to be the father of many nations, yet his wife was 100 years old and still hadn’t conceived. Finally, after much testing, Abraham and Sarah had Isaac. But God eventually called Abraham to go on a journey, lay Isaac on an alter, and kill him. This son he had prayed for for so long, who was given to him to fulfill the promise of God. So he went and as Isaac was lying on the alter and angel came and stopped Abraham from killing his son. So Abraham becomes the father of the nation of Israel.
I thought of the widow who was making her very last piece of bread with the little flour and oil she had so she could share it with her son and die because the famine in her land was so bad. But the prophet Samuel asked her to give him her last piece of bread- I mean, those aren’t really great manners, Samuel. And when she did, she had enough oil for her whole village and didn’t die, but had food in abundance.
And God enters into this journey with us, as He gives and sacrifices His Son He loves so dearly, so that by giving His Son, He may redeem all peoples of all nations, that will believe in Him.
So what do we do with all of this?
I think first of all we understand that God seems a little crazy sometimes. My Old Testament professor talked about this yesterday and I was thankful, that this Hebrew scholar could say what I’ve been thinking for some time. Like, God what?! You can do all things, why do your plans not run more smoothly or cohesively?
I was reading the Desiring God article this morning about Jacob who wrestled with God in order to receive His blessing. And I think this is what God does.
He tests us so we grow and humbles us so we know where the power and authority comes from, and it’s in this place of growth and humility we can truly receive the height, depth, width, and breadth of what He has for us.
We are not always ready for what we desire. This one is still hard for me to swallow so hear me in this. I’ve struggled for a long time with the verse of “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Because sometimes I am doing absolutely everything in my will to try and delight in the Lord and those desires are still unmet. And I’ve asked myself what I’m doing wrong or what I’m holding back and all I have been met with is that God’s timing is perfect and He is faithful. And sometimes the waiting, lacking, and needing is a season we would never desire but the very best thing for us, like the Israelites’ 40 years wandering through the desert from Egypt to the promised land. These seasons of refining and dependence are hard and feel never ending, but necessary all the same.
I spent time last night with a mentor and friend who is in the hospital. She is pregnant with her fourth baby and has been experiencing some complications. She spent months in the hospital with her third who was born extremely premature. It has been a journey that Jessica has been beautifully raw in sharing with me.
One thing she continues to share is that when we face hard things we have two options. We can tighten our fists and be closed off to God, or we can have open hands and receive the trial, the testing, the need, the lack and invite Him into that with us- similar to how when a woman is in labor if she holds her breath through the contractions they will only get worse and unbearable, even slowing down labor. Instead, we have to breathe through contractions so the baby will deliver sooner.
So I am learning to have open hands and to breathe Him in through seasons of putting back in the basket or on the alter what I have been praying and hoping for. Because even though He doesn’t always make sense, He is always good and always faithful, always seeking my good, and always preparing me for just the right time and just the right gift. Because in His plan, no hurt, no pain, no waiting, nothing is wasted.