I had a pair of moccasins that I wore all through college. I loved them. They were my “sole” mate (sorry for the dad-joke). I wore them to the beach, I wore them hiking, I wore them places I probably shouldn’t have because unlike the moccasins Native Americans made, these were fake leather or suede, or whatever they actually were, and not at all weather proof. They eventually started to smell like low-tide and had sand trapped under the sole. At random times this sand would leak out of my shoe to form a trail or force its way in between my toes making me look like a beach bum…but in a really gross, semi-hobo, not sexy way.
Although I eventually quit wearing them due to the smell, I was so afraid that I would never find another pair of moccasins as good, that I kept the stinking things in my closet until this past summer. And when I eventually bought a new pair of moccasins it was still hard to throw away my old ones. We had history together. But I could actually WEAR the new pair. And they didn’t make my feet smell like seaweed.
Obviously this was a really lame analogy about letting go of the old, the familiar, in order to step (quite literally) into the new. The difficulty is, God often asks us to let go of things so much larger than shoes. And seriously, my closet is full of shoes I can’t bring myself to throw out.
In Exodus, God sends His messenger Moses, to tell the Israelites it was time to leave Egypt (where they had been living for about 400 years) and follow Him to a new land (that they had never seen). I don’t know about you, but I would have a seriously difficult time leaving home to go someplace I had never even seen before.
I would have to give up my routine, my life, all for the unknown. And okay, so the Israelites didn’t have the perfect life in Egypt (they were in fact slaves who were treated brutally) but it was at least familiar and it was theirs. And what evidence did they have that the next place would actually be better? Exodus 5 tells us that after making this grand announcement, things actually got worse for the Israelites and they rejected Moses and his ideas. But God had a plan beyond what they could even imagine and the amazing feats He performed convinced Israel to follow Him away from Egypt.
Exodus records the journey that the Israelites made with God to the land He had promised them. It was not a straight shot down Highway 109 to the vacation resort land of their dreams. He repeatedly presented them with challenges which forced them to decide, “Will you release your ideas about how to do things, follow Me in faith, and receive what I have planned for you?”
Repeatedly Israel said, “Yes we will,” then promptly dropped the ball to do things their own way. Like seriously dropped the ball. Melt-all-your-jewelry-into-a-golden-calf (were pottery classes offered in the desert?) and-worship-it level of dropping the ball. The result was 40 years circling the Promised Land but never going in because they lacked the faith to follow.
Now fast forward to the book of Joshua. God has selected Joshua to actually lead Israel into the land He promised them when they left Egypt. And God gave three simple steps to receiving all He had planned:
- Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1: 6, 9 and 18. God repeated this so I think He means it).
- Study His word (Joshua 1:8).
- Obey what He says to do (Joshua 1:8).
It’s funny how many of us hang onto our slavery even when God is promising us something new and beautiful if we would just let go. But the truth is, not knowing what lies ahead is frightening when we can so clearly see what lies behind. Many of us cannot hope to receive our futures when we are blatantly clinging to our pasts, or find it to be more comfortable in the familiar routine of the present.
My conversations with God sometimes go like this:
God: “Coleen, I am calling you to this hypothetical thing.”
Me: “But God, You know how it has been before. There have been so many things that have hurt me and I’m afraid to mess it up. I really don’t think I can do this.”
God: “I know you can’t but I can. I don’t ask you to do anything that I can’t help you do.”
Me: “Yes but what if ALL OF THE BAD THINGS happen? I really don’t want to do this. Can’t You just do a miracle and fix everything? ”
God may be calling you to change something in your life, to take a stand, to move forward on a plan, or to face a painful or frightening circumstance. He is calling each of us to release all that we are and hold onto to Him and receive all He has for us.
Good is not great. Better is not best. God has promised His best, if we are willing to step out of what is familiar and trust Him totally to deliver and take care of us.
Sometimes the transition is scary as all get out. We don’t know how to get to where we are going and we don’t even know what it will look like once we get there. The path may be filled with challenges. For the Israelites they didn’t know how they were going to get across a giant sea with all of Pharaoh’s army chasing them. It wasn’t until the Israelites had reached the edge of the sea that God parted the waters. Sometimes you have to get up and GO before you get to see the path.
Are we willing to release our day-to-day, our usual, and take the next step into what God has for us? What God wants to do in our lives doesn’t depend on how awesome our abilities are, it’s based on how awesome He is and our ability to follow.