When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. ...I was the one who taught the people of Ephraim to walk. I took them by the hand. But they didn't realize that I had healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love. I removed the yokes from their necks. I bent down and fed them. (Hosea 11:1, 3-4)
I love this passage because how many of us are clinging to the reassuring hand of our Father? I know I am. And while it sounds all intimate and faithful and loving, it's not all necessarily good. Let us devour this story a little.
This is pretty much how God finds all of us - as children. When Israel was a child... He finds us small, captive, captured by circumstances. He finds us little, and a little naive. Maybe even innocent, not knowing or understanding or appreciating just where it is that we find ourselves. We're all in Egypt. We are all slaves when God calls us out. If we weren't stuck somewhere, He'd have no reason to call us out. He could call us in to Him. He could call us forth from here. He could simply call us. But He calls us out...because we're stuck here.
One of the things about being stuck is that there's not a lot of room to move. You know this is true if you have ever felt bound by your circumstances. You know this is true if you've ever had trouble. Your whole paradigm shifts to be a response/reaction to the trouble. You rework your life to not only make room for struggle but to incorporate it into your daily living so maybe it's trouble but at least it's not also hassle. Then anything you want to do, you check against your new definition of normal to see if it fits in your troubled paradigm until one day, you realize you haven't done anything in a very long time. God calls you out, and you check it against your trouble and decide that as much as you want to, maybe you can't and so you don't but you can't get the calling of God out of your head. This is a conflict of faith.
So God teaches you how to walk. He teaches you how to take another step. He takes you by the hand and, one small baby step at a time, shows you what it looks like to walk away from bondage. He leads you through the wilderness, the confusion and inner conflict of leaving captivity. He guides you toward Promise, your hand in His...and suddenly, it's His hand in yours because you've wrapped yourself tightly around His reassuring presence and you're not about to let go.
Not here. Not where it's scary. Not outside of the trouble you knew, which oddly seems comforting in such a free place as this.
Which is how we fail to realize God has healed us. He has taken us, sure. He has guided us. He has put our hand in His. And most of us are content with that. Not just content; we are thrilled. Excited. Energized. We even feel somehow kind of holy. This is spiritual success, to be in God's hand at all times.
Or is it? Let me ask you something: If you find God's hand and never stand on your own, have you answered your questions? Have you abated your fears? Or have you appeased yourself so that for awhile, you can just stop asking?
Unless you let go, unless you trust God's hand to still be there even if you're not holding it tight, you will never understand the way He has healed you. You will never understand strength in place of weakness. You will never understand faith in place of fear. You will never understand confidence in place of questions. You will never understand God.
Which is why, slowly, as you experience your freedom and journey to a Promised Land, you feel God's hand slowly slipping away. That's ok. He leads you with ropes of human kindness, friends and strangers to guide the way. He leads you with ropes of love, so you learn to trust that God is love. He removes the yoke from your neck so nothing has a stranglehold on the way you move - no trouble, no trial, no fear, no failure. You move the way you want to move. And he bends down to feed you. He comes to nourish your soul. He doesn't expect you to always find Him, to look around panicked when you think you've wandered too far. He comes to you. He's always coming to you. On your level. To feed you.
That, I think, is faith. When you let go of God's hand, you find your strength. And your strength is in Him because here He is; He's just not molly-coddling you. He's trusting you. Because He wants you to trust Him.
Or imagine it this way. Imagine you are a child, a real child, and that you treasure your daddy. Imagine that you hold his hand when you cross the street or when you're out for a walk or when you're skipping through the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk (and a little treat) on the way home. Now, imagine you hold his hand while you play on the playground, eat lunch, go to school, go to church, go to the bathroom. Imagine that everywhere you go, you hold your daddy's hand. Then tell me how much you still love your daddy...or how big a burden he's become.
But imagine you've let go. Imagine you're running free and every now and then, you look up and catch your daddy's eye watching you. Imagine the smile that crosses your face to see him delight in your delighting. Imagine the smile he returns, purely delighted in you. Then tell me how much you love your daddy.
That's what happens when you realize He's healed you and dare to let go.