Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pause, Survive, Repeat

I went to a retreat a few weeks ago, and the theme was "Follow".
During the weekend we sought to find the definition of following God and we found it in Exodus shortly after the Israelites were set free from slavery that had defined their country for hundreds of years.  We found the definition from a group of people that had learned how to survive even if they had forgotten how to live.

Many of us can probably relate to a season where our main goal in life is to survive. It is as if, for whatever reason, life just suddenly goes on pause. And things happen to us while we are in the midst of surviving. 
We get good at it.

The only problem with pause is it is only supposed to be temporary.  But, sometimes we stay on pause for long enough that we set up camp there.  And, if we are at camp too long, our "awful" - our "chaos" - our "fear" - our "compromise" - become normal and comfortable.  And then normal and comfortable feel like home, the place where we know ourselves. The place we can always come back to - because home defines the essence of safe.  And safe feels like the same thing as life.

But, that is a lie. When the Egyptian army comes after us we sometimes realize we want to be home where at least the terror is known.  That place where we feel like we have some sort of control over our life because there, even if it is hard, we know how to buckle down and survive. So, while we don't return to the exact circumstance that taught us, we return to the way of living that is surviving.

But our pause is not our home and surviving is not the same as living. 

See how the Israelites responded when they heard the Egyptians coming.
(Exodus 14:10-12) 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

They wanted to go back.
They said, "It would have been better in Egypt"...but!! They were slaves. They had no hope for a future. Their babies were being stolen from them and murdered.
It was not better.
Fear can make us believe some very unreasonable things.

Consider what you are tempted to return to?
I just had my epiphany this week - I have been returning back to my home all summer - instead of pressing toward my real home, which is not backward - but in front of me - I have stopped pressing on and have been going back to the place where I tell myself that I don't have to engage in the hard things - where I can just endure them and quiet the noise with simple pleasures.  I tell myself it's not a big deal, that it's temporary and I make it feel okay, because no one - even God - if I had the courage to talk to Him about it - should expect more out of me right now.

Because right now, with so many other things out of control, I just want to feel good.  And, this journey is long and it is constant and I sometimes feel tired and out of control to fix things for the people that I love - and I just wanted it all to stop - just for a minute.

But, here is the irony - there - in my pause - life becomes more out of control. I have to add more and more to quiet God's call for me to deal with the pain, to grieve with Him - to give these things to Him.  I create a mess with practical, tangible things - and then the stress mounts because - more is out of control.  And while intellectually, I can see that there are some bad things  about being in that place - emotionally I can reason that at least I know that place - and at least there I know that no matter what comes at me, I can endure, take care of the basics, and survive.

Fear makes us believe really unreasonable things.
And it doesn't satisfy because pause doesn't work in real life - and things weren't actually better there.
And surviving is not living.
Pause is not follow.

The Israelites are panicked. They show their scared hearts when they accuse God of leading them to the desert just to watch them die.  They do not know that He is good.
And Moses says to them, '(14:13-14) 13 “...Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Be still. Stand Firm.
The only way to be still and to stand instead of retreat is to know who you serve and who is fighting for you! 
Our Father is good.
Our King is honorable.
Our God is real. He is love. And He is here.

And, we can be still.  We can stand firm. Even when our past is coming up behind us intent on destroying us.  We don't have to go back.  Even when life, and bills, and sadness, and fear and temptation are pressing in - we can hold our ground.  We don't have to retreat to our pause - we don't have to go back to the place where we only survive.  It is not better there.

And Moses says be still - remember who fights for you.  Stand firm. You don't have to go back.
See that God is in front of you, behind you, in the day  - in the night. He has not left. Give up this incessant illusion of control and safe and know that His presence is real and relevant.
And good. Uncompromisingly good.

And then God responds and says, (14:15)15 "Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move" 


Be Still - know who I am - and move.

I know things are hard.
You may feel like He tricked you, He led you from one bad to another and you think He didn't let you take the shortcut to freedom because He is sick of you and He wants to watch you die. - but friend, no.  He does not want to watch you die.  He wants to set you free.  He is not sick of you.  He is not giving up on you.
And you have somethings in the past He doesn't want you to run from - He wants you to face them and see His hand wipe it out. For you.  Because He fights for you.  He is not mocking you.

He is leading you.
He is reminding you.
He is calling you.
It is not better there.
You were not better there.
Do not go back.
Be Still. Stand Firm. Take a deep breath. Trust me. 
And move.
Because child we got places to go, and I got things to show you.
It is time.

Let's keep fighting. Let's keep engaging. Right now is not the end of the story.
Be still, Stand firm,  don't put it on pause.  Engage it - whatever it is - stand and face it.
And Move.
One step. It's time to stop the pause and find the courage to follow our good, Holy, and righteous Master. 

All Scripture taken from
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide