“They are wandering around in circles. The desert has closed them in on all sides.” -Pharaoh, Exodus 14:3
My goal was to be published at age twelve, married at eighteen, parenting by twenty. Great wife, awesome mom of many, world-famous writer and illustrator, living on an idyllic farm when not doing overseas mission work.
However, such goals as these are not easily met. They are not like soccer goals, which stand firmly on the ground, waiting for you to arrive. A soccer goal is made up of strong structure and a springy net, ready to absorb the force of your efforts. Life goals often seem more like fireflies. You glimpse them, go for them and make a snatch, only to open your fist and find not a glimmer.
Last night, in the dim lighting of our living room after Lenten devotions, prayer, candles and singing, I told my mom that the past year has been a series of closed doors for me. But, I assured her. I am strangely okay with it. There have been articles rejected, ideas shot down, applications denied galore. I have been told “no” by people and by God. Don’t go there. Don’t fall for that. Don’t sign up. Don’t take that opportunity. So often I get a “yes” to try out, to apply, to submit, to knock on the door, and yet the doors have nearly all been locked.
Many of my “goals” have eluded me, and though some of them were silly, others were near to my heart. The hardest dreams to let go of are the ones we must choose to say goodbye to (and God offers us a surprising number of opportunities to choose in this life.) I sometimes look back with regret and ask myself for the millionth time if God “really said not to” do such-and-such, or if I was just too afraid to try, but He does not tire of my questions. “Yes.” He says patiently. “Trust me on this one. I’ll explain it later.”
Some things are truly out of my hands. I cannot be a homeschool mom with the snap of my fingers. I’m not sure how I planned to get published as a preteen, but that opportunity will never come again! Overseas missions have, as of today, not been an option for me. But some of my other goals seemed almost nearby, like a firefly that keeps sparking on ahead of me on a pathway. Some of them, I’d go as far as to say, I have held in my own hands. And then God asks me to open them and, just as I fear, the firefly buzzes free.
“Where are we going?” I ask Him. Haven’t I seen that tree before? And just when I thought we were going uphill, we take a steep turn downward. We appear to be wandering aimlessly, and this is perhaps my greatest fear of all. Am I truly going nowhere?
And yet “nowhere” with my hand in His, is really a wonderful place to be.
I think back on the Israelite exodus. God told them, basically, to “go the long way ’round.” This greatly confused Pharaoh, just as God had said it would.
Speak to the Israelites and tell them to go back and set up camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal-zephon. Camp there next to the sea. Pharaoh will talk about the Israelites, saying, “They are wandering around in circles. The desert has closed them in on all sides.” Then I will harden Pharaoh’s stubborn heart even more, and he will pursue the Israelites. Honor will come to Me throughthe actions of Pharaoh and his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Eternal One.
Other translations say that Pharaoh thought they were “tangled in the land,” “confused” or “lost.” But they were far from lost! God knew where they were the entire time and, not only that, but He was practically leading them by the hand.
I get tired and dejected and rejection stings in the moment. I watch others succeed and unwisely covet their accomplishments. But quiet and sure I hear God’s voice, just before I despair. He’s telling me that to “make known to me the path of life” He will take me on detours and often winding roads. He will spend as much time as He needs to “lead me on paths of righteousness.” However, there is a destination in sight, one better than those I dreamed up at age ten, and it is His right hand that will lead me to it. Therein are “pleasures forever more,” so I’m going to take a deep breath and enjoy the journey.