Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Waters will Part

Nine Christmases ago, I sat in Starbucks, alone. I was newly separated, had been given the most dreaded and devastating news the day before, and was about to file for divorce in less than 6 days after 10 years of marriage.

As I completed the horrific year of 2008, which included my mom's death and my divorce, I thought my Christmases, especially my Christmas Eves would never recover. I thought they'd be marked by heartache until the end of time.

I thought that year was powerful enough to erase all that Christmas stood for in my would no longer be filled with the innocence of children running down the stairs with eager anticipation for what Santa had brought, no more laughing while eating crackers covered with my mom's cheeseball, no more stockings hanging from Snoopy on a sled, or staying up late assembling Barbie dream castles, ping pong tables, and wrapping until 1 a.m.

You know what? To a certain extent, I was right.

Yep, Christmas 2008 changed the course of my life, my dreams, my nostalgia longing heart and even though I find myself sitting in a Starbucks, alone, here at Christmas 2016 finishing up the hardest 4 days out of every. stinkin. year, that moment in time during the worst year of my life awakened me to something I had been missing.

This is my ninth Christmas to navigate without all the delights of mom no longer grates cheese and prepares a bowl of chopped pecans to wrap around the delightful mush of what is cheeseball heaven, there are no more pictures of me and a husband assembling ping pong tables and having midnight conversations of the excitement that awaits, and there are no more days filled with extended family watching Christmas Vacation, playing Skip Bo and putting puzzles together...and as much as that can break my heart and knock me for a loop for about 96 hours, it forces me to find the meaning of Christmas somewhere else. It forces me to look deeper, farther, and beg God to show me Himself as He helps me make it through the longest days of my year.

Exodus is my favorite book in the Bible. Fifteen years ago, when I read it seemingly for the first time, it was as if I was reading the story of my life.
Yes, at that time, I did feel like I was in a really bad place that had taken me down roads of grief, heartache, anxiety and depression, but as much as that wilderness was caused by circumstances beyond my control, that wilderness was also set up by much of my own doing.

I was lost and wandering and I wasn't looking for direction in the right place until I was miles into the middle of nowhere, until I was in the middle of an overwhelming wilderness.

The book of Exodus is so relatable because it's the story of humanity, of how incredibly lost we are, but it's also the story of how God comes to save us all from Egypt.

It's a beautiful picture of God coming down and saving His people.

The story in Exodus often mimics the story we find in the gospels. And just as the Christmas story begins with wise men seeing a star burning brightly and following it for the chance to meet the Savior, Exodus begins with Moses going to the mountain of God where he sees a blazing fire in the midst of a bush, and "turning aside to see this marvelous sight".

As God saw him turn aside, God called to him and said "Here I am."

All those years ago, when I was sitting in a pit nearing hopelessness, reading Exodus reminded me of a God that rescues.

Here were His people in a horrific mess both by willingness and by the hand dealt, just like I was, and God showed up for them, and He was telling me He would do the same for me.

Freedom seemed impossible.
Bondage had been all they knew.
Egypt was too great, too powerful.

But, God comes down, Moses turns aside to look, and the waters to freedom begin to part.

"I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey...Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you; when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship at this mountain."

One would think the beauty of this story lies within those words of God, but no, I believe the beauty of it all is what comes after.

Moses, being just like you and me, looks at the bush and says in his Old Testament way... Come again? How is this going to happen? You want me to do what?

And then, the conversation...yes, the real beauty of this story is that God is willing to converse with Moses; a scared, confused, insecure, stubborn man that's only seeing the overwhelming Egypt that is before him, God stays and speaks right into that.

"I AM has sent you...But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go."

And just as I do, Moses doubts and says, "but what if Lord?"

God answers by showing Moses His power in personal ways for just him to witness.

But Moses is still a nervous wreck and says again, "but What IF Lord?"

God reassures him, "I will be your mouth, I will teach you what to say."

Moses again, "BUT WHAT IF GOD?"

Upon this final what if, God makes a way for Moses to trust Him, and Moses heads straight for Egypt.

And as Moses heads to fight the bondage, to seek freedom, to go as God asked, Moses finds himself empty, failing, and becoming a person the people scorn.

Moses lands in a place, just as I have this Christmas, before God saying, begging, yelling,

What follows are, what I've come to believe, some of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land."

And then God continues by declaring the greatness that will soon follow, declaring what happens when He is trusted, even amongst sadness, oppression, confusion, bondage, what if's and what if's one more time, and even amongst the inevitable question of WHY GOD?

"I established my covenant...

I have heard the cry.

I am the Lord and I WILL BRING YOU OUT from the burdens.

I will deliver you from their bondage.

I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm.

I will take you for My people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out...I am the Lord."

I've come to see that the answer to the question of why is often that I'm in need of remembering and seeing once again in my life that I need a Savior; that it is HE who brings me out.

On this Christmas, are you feeling lost?
Are you looking around and seeing that you are 200 miles from nowhere? In a pit where you can barely see the light anymore?

Or maybe you are just in a funk of 96 hours with the pain of loneliness more palpable than you thought could happen after so much time has passed?

Or has this year landed you in a puddle of grief? confusion? heartbreak? shame?

Are you asking what if?

And asking "what if" once more?

and begging God to answer WHY?

Yes, Egypt is powerful, overwhelming, and oppressing.

But, God comes down.

"I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he. will. let. you go."

That burning bush is waiting for us to turn aside and look.

God is waiting to say, "Here I am."

and as soon as we do...the waters begin to part.

"...the Lord is fighting for them...and when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord...The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him...the Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name." Ex. 14 and 15

"For nothing will be impossible with God." Matthew 1:37

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!


1 comment:

  1. Yes. I am many of the above. Thank you- these words were a sweet honey to an achy heart tonight. You are a gift to me. Merry Christmas Shelly!