In the classic film “Gone with the Wind,” there is a scene where Rhett Butler leads a horse-drawn wagon out of the burning city of Atlanta. In one of the grandest movie special effects of all time, you see buildings burning and crumbling, as the horse balks in fear of the path before him. Rhett asks Scarlett to remove one of her many petticoats from under her huge hoop skirt. As he uses the petticoat to blindfold the horse, Rhett, in his timeless voice, says, “You’ll do better if you don’t see anything.”
In a few days, I will be celebrating my 60th birthday. When I look back at the years of my life, I cannot help but think of the times I closed my eyes in fear and prayed, “God help me.” It is there with my heart racing, God says, “Listen to my voice. Don’t stare at your fears. Trust me. And keep on walking.”
The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. Blindly following God into the wilderness had never know freedom. Day in and day out, they obeyed their taskmaster and suffered under their cruelty. Their joy of freedom quickly faded, as they found their backs to the Red Sea and the hoard of Egyptian soldiers storming toward them. Shaking in fear, I am sure they thought, “Why did I follow? I don’t like this freedom. Take me back to Egypt.”
Much like the Egyptian slaves, we are all born as slaves to sin. Only through trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior can we know true freedom. While the journey we begin with God is incredible, there are times our fear overwhelms us, as we look around at our terrain. “Where is God taking me?” “Nothing looks familiar.” “I don’t think I can do this.” “I am afraid to take another step.”
Exodus chapter thirteen gives us truths that like the pillar of fire at night and pillar of cloud during the day; they will help us to forsake our fears and walk in faith.
Looking backwards at my path I know God often led me in ways that did not make sense to me. Yet in each twist and turn I grew to trust in God’s proven presence in my life. When my fears swelled, His hand slipped into mine, “I got this.” My faith grows greatest when I can’t see or understand where God is leading me.
The children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness unlearning to follow Egyptian gods, Egyptian health practices, and the Egyptian lifestyles. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Number, and Deuteronomy record the lessons of God’s 40-year wilderness class. Through Israel’s’ doubts, failures, and bad choices; God continually loves and instructs, molding them to live as his children. To grow us, God will lead us away from that which he delivered us. As we grow in Him, old habits, toxic friends, and our rebellious heart fall from our grasp. God often leads us on a path that separates us from our old life, so we might begin to live the life “abundant” that he has prepared for us.
The children of Israel quickly found out that with God, there are no short-cuts. Egypt to the Promised Land was a journey of only 240 miles if you walked in a straight line. But God chose to take forty years of wandering in circles, to have the needed time to grow Israel. To face their battles at Jericho and then with the Canaanite Kings, Israel had to be ready to trust in God’s leading. Growing in Christ is not a one-time event but a life-time process. Malachi 3:3 talks about the “refiners fire.” It illustrates God as the refiner who heats and reheats precious metals to purify them. Each time silver and gold is melted impurities rise to the surface so they can be removed. The refiner is not in a hurry, because he places such value in what others may see as a useless mess. In studying the process of refining, you will find that the refiner is not done until the cooled metal reflects his face. Moving from fear to faith is an extraordinary, time-consuming journey, but necessary. Why is it necessary? So that my life will reflect Him.
“Listen to my voice. Don’t stare at your fears. Trust me. And keep on walking.” What a journey, when my Father is leading!