Three weeks ago our family packed all of our belongings into the largest U-Haul we could rent and said goodbye to the only place we’d ever called home.
We are certain God has called us to this new place, but driving away from all you’ve known is still hard. The last little league games, school days, and best friend goodbyes are bittersweet. Excitement mixes with sorrow as we embark on a new journey—a new way home.
In the car driving away, minutes turn into hours. You remember all you’re leaving behind in the rearview mirror. You day dream about what lies ahead in a new place. You follow the twists and turns of the GPS and answer each time someone asks “how much longer?”
Three weeks later as I try to learn my way around a new place, I’m still asking “how long?” I wonder how much longer until we make friends. How much longer until I have some sense of direction. How much longer until what’s new feels like home.
I’ve considered the Israelites often. They heard God’s call clearly. They saw his mighty acts. They left in faith believing better days and lands laid ahead just as he promised.
But they failed to considered the challenges of the wilderness. Sometimes we do too.
They grumbled when there wasn’t enough to eat. They shook their fist when they got thirsty. They built a golden calf when Moses took too long.
What they—and we—forget is that the road home is seldom a straight path. God often takes the windy way, fraught with rocky terrain and extreme conditions. He wants to know if we’ll trust him when the path is difficult and unexpected, when it takes longer to get to there than anticipated.
In such circumstances we’re faced with a choice. Will we keep believing God to make good on his word? Or will we romanticize the past, curse our present, and give up on the future?
When the Israelites grew tired in the wilderness, they slipped into the latter. “‘We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at’” (Number 11:5–6).
I wonder how closely the Israelite’s description of Egypt matched reality. After all they were slaves. Life wasn’t good or easy. It was marred by back-breaking labor and abuse. It was fraught with inequalities and prejudices. It’s hard to imagine they ate an abundance of lovely foods.
Like them we sometimes forget life’s difficulties. Discouraged by our present challenges, we remember the past as better than it was and long to go back. We want to take hold of something familiar, as painful as it might have been.
In so doing we overlook the manna right in front us. God is giving us what we need for the day. And we can either take hold of it in faith. Or we can curse it and miss out on the lessons, provision, and grace.
The wildness isn’t an easy place. None of us like it. Israel didn’t. We don’t. But it’s a gift to us if we can receive it—because we must trust God alone.
He is with us in the wilderness. He is directing our path, providing what we need, showing us more of himself. But we must see and believe.
Far too often I ask “how long” in the dry seasons. I want to know “are we there yet?” I overlook God’s goodness and sometimes even grumble about it. Some days I even want to go back home.
But then I remember God takes the long road—the one that takes faith. And in this current season, as I’m torn between the excitement of what’s ahead and the sorrow of things missed, I have a choice.
Will I trust that God is good and has good things in store for us? Or will I curse the present and long for what I had, even if it was far from ideal?
Today I’m choosing to embrace the present with all it’s ups and downs, messy feelings, and wrong turns. I’ll celebrate the joys and let myself or my little boys cry when needed. I’ll look for God’s hand in the small things and give thanks when I see it. And if I take a wrong turn, I’ll embrace the drive on the long way home.
Will you join me?