I grew up in a neighborhood on a closed military base, so I had the luxury of running wild outside (at least until the streetlights came on). My parents strategically chose the house we lived in from a number of others available because it was within walking distance of a lake (with lifeguards on duty) and, as my sister and I soon found out, miles of woods and trails. In the summers, if we weren’t swimming at the lake, we would spend literally all day out in the woods with our friends, either making forts or exploring old trails and creating new ones. For a bunch of kids, I’d say we were pretty good at making trails; all we really had to do was find an appropriate stick and beat the blackberry vines into submission, and maybe break or move a fallen branch here and there. The only downside is that every summer when we’d go back into the woods again, we would have to remake most of our trails, because they’d be overgrown.
This morning, Pastor Lorelei talked about the five aspects of shame that Pastor James has talked about in recent sermons*. Apart from the major message, this one part caught my attention, and I’ve been chewing on it all day since: The idea that we as humans tend to fixate both on our own failings and the failings of others as they pertain to us. We have all said or done not-so-great things in our lives, and we have all had not-so-great things said or done to us, sometimes by people who are very important to us. We tend to hold very tightly to these things; we set up little shrines to them in our souls, even unintentionally, and we hold them up as things that cannot be overcome. “But I had this happen to me” or “But I’ve done this” becomes our excuse, sometimes very subtly, to not believe God or do what He’s asking us to. These are objections to which God generally replies, “So what?” Not because He is uncaring; He cares very much for you and loves you beyond your comprehension. But He is the God of the universe; He can do anything! He is in the business of miracles and transforming lives; there is nothing that He cannot overcome. However, there is that small matter of free-will choice. God is a “gentleman” and therefore will not force His will upon any person. He invites us to walk on a certain path with Him, but we must forsake all other paths to do so. Pastor Lorelei put it somewhat like this: “How can you move into the promised land if you’re still living in Egypt? The commute is too far!”
The picture I had when this subject came up was of remaking overgrown trails in the woods as a kid. We would follow the same paths to visit the same places all the time, so that the trails became well-worn and familiar enough that we didn’t even have to look for them anymore. If we stopped using one though, after awhile the vines would grow over the trail, fallen leaves and branches would cover it, weeds and bushes would hide it, and it would eventually disappear. If we wanted it to stay, we’d have to keep using it and tending to it, or we wouldn’t be able to get to that tree or that lookout place anymore. There were some trails we lost completely and forgot where they had been in the first place.
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
It is ok to forget how to get back to Egypt. God isn’t going to ask you to go back into bondage when that’s what He has saved you from; in fact, He warns Israel multiple times to never turn back. He wants us to move forward with Him. God designed us to follow Him on the path he chose for us, forsaking all others. We don’t get to walk the path He has for someone else that we think looks good, or the ones we have made for ourselves either. We all have paths we’ve tended, so we don’t forget how to get back to this offense, or that hurt, or those memories, all reasons why “I’m a broken person.” God can heal anything, if we let Him. He will open up new paths we have never seen to places we can’t yet fathom, and we’ll end up doing amazing things: all more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Trust the Lord and His leading; let all the other trails become overgrown, until you forget where they were and what they led to. And don’t listen to Satan, when he tries to get you to remake old paths. When he comes along and reminds you of those things “they” did or “they” told you, or all the times you’ve messed up, just reply, “So what?” and keep walking with the Lord.
The link below is to a video made for the Crossing the River service to be held at Zion’s River on May 3, 2013. It’s not just a cool ceremony to parallel the biblical crossing of the Jordan by Israel under the leadership of Joshua; it’s a prophetic action for us as we are moving into the territory God has promised us, and forsaking our Egypt.
Colored pencil & oil pastel on hot press board. *Please don’t copy or save this image*
This is a project I had to do for an art class, actually: a musically-inspired piece.
The song that I chose is “Like and Avalanche” by Hillsong United.
I strongly encourage you to listen to the song as you consider my work:
Feel free to turn it up!
All the elements of this picture reflect aspects of the song, or at least how it affected me at the time. I’m certain that if I did another on the same song, it would look very different.
I have always loved this song since the first time I heard it. While it’s called “Like an Avalanche,” it makes me think of tidal waves. God’s presence and love is like the song: it is gentle and beautiful and joyful; but it is also powerful and fierce, and can overwhelm you with little warning. Grace is more than “unmerited favor” or even forgiveness of sins; grace is the power of God in the life of one who believes Him to be who He says they are, and to live as He has called them.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” —Ephesians 2:4-7
“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” —Romans 5:7-10