Waters You’ve Entered

I grew up in northern California, about 30 minutes from its beautiful coastline.  Weekend day trips to the beach were commonly taken by my family.  Though outings to the beach were always something our family enjoyed, we were never encouraged to go in the water.  My mother was never fond of the idea of her children swimming in the great blue waters of the Pacific, due to its undertow.  She had shared with me how easy it was for the ocean to carry you out much farther than you had ever planned to go.  

So, I always spent my time there on dry land.  I would walk up and down the rich warm sand, hunting for the most exquisite seashells I could find. I was perfectly content watching the waters repeatedly kiss the shoreline, while I stayed dry, building sandcastles that would inevitably come crashing down within minutes of lifting the bucket I had used as a mold.   I knew nothing other than playing along the shore, so there never seemed to be anything I believed I was missing out on.

One summer as a teen, I vacationed with extended family at a beach town in the southern part of my state.  During this particular trip to the beach, I ventured out.  This trip was different, because I elected to get into the water.  Swimming in the ocean wasn’t ever anything I grew up doing, but somehow seeing my cousins basking in that seemingly refreshing San Diego water, with delight written on their faces, made it much more appealing.

I took one step into the foaming shoreline, and found that it wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had been led to believe the ocean waters were, when I was much younger.  Every step I took, invited me further into that serene blue ocean.  Each step made it that much easier to take yet another step, then another.  Before I knew it, I was treading water.  What I had originally thought of as a beautiful blue taste of heaven turned out to be filled with unappetizing salt.  In addition to that, I no longer found myself in the shallow portion where the waters could kiss the shore.    

As I reflect back on that beach trip, I see how that event mirrors much of how I lived my life.  I would often draw a line in the sand on a particular issue, (confident I would never cross it), all to find that crossing that one line, wasn’t so bad.  Before I knew it, that damaging poor decision, and others after it, would lead me out into uncharted waters, that didn’t deliver on the promise their appearance had led me to believe.  

While I began to tread the waters of that San Diego beach, I felt a tug on my ankle.  That tug caused my whole head to unexpectedly go under.  I remember every time I began to gain the strength to fight to get back up, the weight of the pull kept me down under the water.  

There I was, fighting to get up for air.   I had drifted so far out from the shore, that the pursuit to get back to where I was, took all my efforts.  Once I was able to get my head above water, and breathe in some much needed air, I finally realized how far from land I really was.  I looked around for the familiar faces of my family, but all I saw were unfamiliar ones.  I paddled my arms so fast in an effort to reach dry land after that.

Much of my life has been spent treading in waters that God never intended me to go into.  Instead of being content on the shores He wanted to provide, I would find something else more riveting, that would inevitably hook me into the nets of destructive seas.  

Sin often takes us farther than we ever intended to go.  It pulls us down, and we are soon over our heads!  We are somehow convinced of the fun to be had in those wonderful pools of blue, but the oasis it promises, leaves a bad taste of unforgettable seaweed in our mouth.  And if we listen to that voice of a particularly seductive sin, eventually God’s voice is drowned from our heart, leaving us shipwrecked.

The Bible is filled with all sorts of folks just like us.  People who were convinced that the troubled waters they entered, weren’t that bad.  There was Jonah whose refusal to obey God led him to board a ship.  A ship that carried him into deep waters, after which he became the temporary lunch for a whale. (see Jonah 1:17)  Or King David, who instead of being on the dry land of the battlefield where he was called, found himself in a sea of compromise at the sight of someone bathing by moonlight. (2 Samuel 11:2)  Both of these choices carried Jonah and King David into seas of regret.

I don’t have a rock to throw in the waters that engulfed Jonah or King David.  I can truly relate to both.  I’ve personally set my focus on people (much like King David did), that I had no business bathing in sin with.  I can also identify with Jonah, who struggled with a defiant heart towards God, simply because I did not understand His ways.

So on what shore have you found yourself lacking contentment?  What sin is taking you in its undertow?  Has the line you once drew in the sand now been blurred on the shores, from waters you’ve entered?

Becoming A Moses

I often tell people I can relate to the Israelites of the Old Testament book of Exodus in the Bible.  The Israelites spent 40 years in a literal desert in which faith was required every step of the way.  After having raised my four children, I will also have spent 40 years in a faith-stretching ‘parental’ desert.  My own 40-year journey is due to having had four children over the span of 22 years.  I started my parental desert walk in 1988, and will have finished in 2028 after my youngest reaches the age of legal adulthood.  Because of the significant difference in age span, I will have had parental responsibility for 40 years. 

I raised my first two children as a single-parent and grumbled miserably throughout that taxing journey.  I wanted something more than the manna that was being provided, and often made idols out of things never meant to be glorified.  Simply said, I struggled with many of the same things the ancient Israelites did.  

But as times changed and I began to parent for the second time around, I learned how to parent purposefully, and with gratitude.  Little did I know, but God would soon be training me up to become a Moses.  

In 2014 the Lord called me to the daunting task of homeschooling my son, and subsequently my daughter.  I had selfishly been of the mindset that after having spent the first five years at home with children, the reward God gave to parents was a break in the form of sending them to school.  Public or private; the gift bestowed upon moms was that we now had our long-awaited uninterrupted ‘me time’.  Time in the restroom, time to clean the house without a mess being formed behind us, and time permitted to join a local yoga class.  Or if you really were thankful for this special time given, you could do something more ‘godly’, like… join a daytime Bible study.  In other words….some free time, after being set ‘free from hands-on, 24/7 parenting.

But that was not God’s plan for my life, or the life of my two youngest children.  

I had grown up and raised my first two children in California during the ‘90’s, where a negative stigma was attached to homeschooling.  But even if homeschooling had been a common practice in California during those days, as a single mother sometimes working multiple jobs, homeschooling would have been unrealistic for me.  

When I was later blessed, after remarriage, with the incredible privilege of being a stay-at-home mom and had birthed my second set of children, homeschooling was not on my radar.  During the pre-schooling years however, both my youngest children were diagnosed with different things that could potentially cause that ‘free time’ objective of mine, to be reevaluated.    

When God began to nudge me towards the idea of homeschooling my son, I was utterly overwhelmed by the thought, and found myself begging for a recess.  I had barely made it through my high school years and felt unprepared to complete college.  I was very good at having played school with my neighborhood friends as a little girl, but that wasn’t the same as having to actually homeschool my own children!  Playing school was nothing more than dressing up in my mother’s heels, holding a piece of white chalk, and pretending to impart wisdom on the neighborhood kids.  The thought of taking on the full-time job (in addition to general parenting), of instilling an academic foundation into my child, instilled massive worries of failure.  Surely God needed to be reminded of my inability to fulfill His calling. 

Which brings us to Moses…

Moses was one of several people in the Bible whom God had called to do His work.  He was called to lead God’s people out of the bondage they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians.  But Moses said to God, “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11)

We’ve often seen beautifully illustrated pictures of Moses shown in a child’s Sunday school class.  Pictures that depict and evoke mental images of him having been self-assured; but he wasn’t.  Moses had several concerns about his lack of qualifications, one in particular was in reference to his speech. But after a long discussion with his Maker over the interference of his perceived deficiencies God told Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)  Moses was well-aware of his weaknesses, and so was God, which made him perfect for the task at hand.  God’s great glory and power would be made perfect in those weaknesses (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).  

The fears I felt over God’s directive for me to homeschool, were slapping my hand repeatedly like a wooden ruler in the hands of a teacher from the 1800’s.  And the shame I felt over my sense of inadequacies ushered me to believe I needed to stand, and face the corner.    

God’s words to Moses, were the words He spoke to my spirit … “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)

Though fear held me in its grasp, I just love that when God is calling us to do something, it isn’t to set us up for failure.  He uses imperfect people to do the work He has called them to do; so that He, the Lord God, can reveal His great power.  Yet Moses responded by simply saying, “Pardon your servant, Lord.  Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)

Is that not a relatable response?!

That’s just like us…or at least, like me!  I often squirm over the things God calls me to do.  I come up with all sorts of excuses as to why someone else may be better suited for the task.   I just knew I wasn’t suited for the task of homeschooling.  I didn’t feel equipped to handle that kind of responsibility.  ‘What if I fall short of what my son needs?’ was a thought that kept going through my mind.  Little did I know on that first day of homeschooling my son for kindergarten, that my nearly four-year old daughter would ask me where her work was too.  

Ugh!  Two kids to homeschool, when I didn’t even feel equipped for one!  

But God knew my little girl would inquire of her school-work that day, and He prevailed.  My daughter had no idea that she was not a part of my school plan for the day, but she was a part of the Lord’s plan!  Without missing a dot on the number line, I quickly gathered work for her to do.

How ironic that God would choose Moses, knowing that he was not an eloquent man.  There was no coincidence in His choice.  He selected a man (who admitted to having issues with public speaking), to speak in public to the high-falutin authority in Egypt. In addition to Moses’ public speaking engagement with Pharaoh, he was also expected to soon lead a nation full of complaining, golden-calf worshipping, Hebrew people through a parted Red Sea and many miles of dry, hot, desert land.  But because of God’s mercy, He allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to partner in His endeavour.  

There was also no coincidence that He chose me, a person who struggled all through school, to grow my children academically.  Moses learned a lot on his trip through the desert, as have I, on my homeschooling journey.  I would never have guessed how God, through His grace, could, ‘give back what the locusts have eaten‘ (see Joel 2:25) in my own education, through the instruction I have provided to my children. As with Moses, God has given me the words to speak as He teaches through me each year of homeschooling.  

I’m still walking through His parting of my own homeschooling sea through which He faithfully is leading me.  I choose to trust that the powerful waters that tower above me on both sides will remain in place by the Father’s hand, for me to finish my journey to the end.  He has been faithful to supply the manna needed for each year that I teach.   And this time…I live sustained, and satisfied greatly with that manna, as I make my journey.   

So what is God calling you to do through His strength, that you feel ill-equipped to do?  What desert journey are you called to lead others through, and what sea are you trusting God to part for you, as you’re… becoming a Moses?