Friday, March 8, 2013

Fire and Fog

God's people have a history of feeling a little lost.  Or really lost, sometimes, as the wilderness experience in Exodus reminds us.  In those times of wandering, it's hard to know really which way to go, what to trust in, what to hope for, what to believe in, which way to turn.  The answer, so far as we can surmise from God's word, is simple but more easily said than done:

Walk toward the fire and into the fog.

Now, that doesn't seem right.  That doesn't seem comfortable.  That doesn't seem logical.  That doesn't seem fun.  The fire and the fog?  That's worse than the wandering!  In all my wandering, I'll admit - I spend most of my time trying to escape the fire and trying to find a way out of the fog.  So this...seems counterintuitive at best, kamikaze at worst.

Yet this is precisely the way.  Because as the journey of God's people tells us - it is by the fire and the fog that He led them.  It is by the fire and the fog that He leads us.

In the night, by fire.  In the darkness, by flame.  In the hard times, by trial.  When it seems things can't get worse - we've got no rest, no shelter, no place to lay our heads.  No security to shut our eyes.  Nowhere to call home.  Our stomachs are growling.  The day's manna is gone; the quail is rotting; we wonder what we might eat tomorrow.  In those tough times, God says, walk toward the fire.

Walk toward the hard times.  Lean into the trouble.  You will find enough.  You will find providence.  You will find faith.  You will find trust.

You will find God.

It's what happened in the desert.  In the toughest of times, in the darkest of nights, God's people didn't know.  They didn't know how long this would go on, how they would make it.  Their provisions had long run out.  They were scared.  They were weary.  They were wondering.  They were wandering.  And when the darkest nights had fallen, they cried out to God - have you brought us here to die?

Then...manna.  Bread from heaven like dew drops on the ground.  Water.  Out of the hardness of the rock flowed a refreshing stream.  Enough for one day.  This day.  Tomorrow, they would have to trust again.  Tomorrow, they did.

Over the course of 40 years, they learned what it meant for God to provide.  They knew what it meant to trust Him.  They knew what today meant and what tomorrow would have to mean again.  Each man ate until he was satisfied; each woman had her fill.  They found enough.  They found providence.  They found faith.  They found trust.

They found God.

And in the day, by fog.  By a cloud of smoke that blocked their view.  By a haze so heavy they couldn't see the Promised Land.  They didn't know where they were.  They didn't know where they were going.  They thought for sure they had passed that rock already...twice?  Three times?  They probably longed just to see.  But God says when you don't know where you're going, walk into the fog.

You will find rest.  You will find guidance.  You will find trust.

You will find God.

This, too, is what happened in the desert.  In the fog by day, the camp settled.  They found rest.  The column of smoke guided their journey; it told them the next step even when they couldn't see the destination.  They learned to journey one day at a time, one tiny step at a time, from camp to camp until one day, they looked up and saw the Jordan.  On the other side of the Jordan, they saw the promise.

We all feel a little lost now and then.  Sometimes, really lost.  But there is something to do when we wander.

Walk toward the fire and into the fog. God.

And the next thing you see could be the Promise.

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