I can't remember a time I didn't love to read. Even when my parents strongly encouraged us (with lack of choice) to participate in children's quizzing at church, I found stories and characters in scripture with whom I fell in love.
But they weren't the Israelites.
There wasn't a time when I read anything about the Israelites that I had any faith in their ability to be anything but whiny pains in the butt. Deliver them from Egypt? They think they'll starve. Give them food and water? They'll refuse to follow directions and hoard so it rots. Follow them as a cloud and a pillar of fire? They'll build a calf so they can have a tangible representation of something to worship.
It might be fair to say I'm a bit of a smug reader. I could flip forward a few pages and know exactly how God intended to provide so I spent a lot of time smacking my forehead and thinking that these Israelite people really weren't the brightest crayons in the box. The God of the Universe who delivered you from Pharaoh was clearly going to feed you in the desert, morons. Get.It.Together.
If only I'd known that somewhere in my 30s I'd realize fear can be an awfully powerful motivator. Because then? I'd recognize myself in the hearts of these people who had witnessed miracle after miracle only to whine that the next set of needs could not possibly be met.
Fear is paralyzing. I know because I've spent much of the last year in that state.
Oh, let's be honest. Fear is the thing I fight on a regular basis. But it's certainly been much more debilitating this last year. After moving from a church with pastor/financial issues, Favorite and I found ourselves in a church with severe pastor/financial issues. While we weren't the only ones blindsided by the lies, we did ask a lot of questions. It's hard to discount the fact that two churches faced similar leadership issues (which one church sanctioned and one church did not) and the only common denominator was us. An entire congregation faced severe loss--in friendship, trust, unity and money.
I lost the first close friend I've had since my best friend moved to Ohio.
Let me be honest: I've been terrified. Sure, I've seen God move us in miraculous ways, but in the latter part of 2013 (and the first part of 2014), all I could see was that He led us out of Egypt to starve in the desert.
It wasn't long until things at work unraveled due to an unsettled contract and negotiations that would prove to create what is best termed as a hostile work environment for the better part of 6 months. We were far from destitute, but in each situation, terror was slowly claiming pieces of my mind. And the unclaimed pieces? Were dry from the desert sun.
Then, in the desert, I discovered we were expecting.
If Ryan was the blessing of my life, Eli is proof of God's overwhelming extravagance. But his presence did little to alleviate my fear. Suddenly, I was hoarding manna and quickly discovering God's command to take only what I needed resulted in rot and panic.
In the past 7 months, I've been terrified that Eli's birth will meet with far less excitement than Ryan's. It's hard to lose a cheerleader, and I know Courtney would have asked about every doctor's appointment and movement. She wouldn't have raised her eyebrows that my sons are going to be so close in age (or told me terrifying stories about how awful the first year is going to be) and she would've thought it was great we were having another boy. I'm not romanticizing her reactions either; I experienced them first hand with Ryan.
I'm scared to become a mom of two. Sure, women have done it before me, but I've only been in this mommy business for a year. I don't have it figure out so throwing another baby in the mix when Ryan is still very much a baby is, well, I have a hard time catching my breath.
Blessed? Sure. Beyond belief. But like a thundercloud at a pool party, fear often overshadows the blessing I know I should be feeling right now.
I keep putting my ear a little closer to the page when I read about the Israelites. I need to hear their individual voices and see God's tender hand consistently moving across those pages to touch the concerns of each person--not because I'm not blessed, but because I don't want fear to become the mitigating factor in my reaction to every situation.
Like Paul, I think most situations are about having scales fall from our eyes so we can see just a little more clearly--all the while anticipating the day when we don't see through a glass darkly.