I have never, ever understood why it took the Israelites so long to take possession of the promise God had made to them for generations. ...Well, this year, I understand.
The Bible is an amazing handbook for life. No matter what you're up against -- or what mess you've gotten yourself into -- there is bound to be something relevant in the Holy Scriptures. Let's face it, some of the very best stories of all time are from the Bible. Sin and repentance, loyalty and betrayal, faithfulness and falleness: it's all in there!
The story of the Exodus has always been one of my favorites. Remember how Moses met God in the burning bush and was sent to free God's people and bring them to the Promised Land? Recall that after 10 terrible plagues, Moses was finally permitted to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt? Remember that when their backs were up against the sea and there was no escape, God opened up a path and the children of Israel walked through the waters on dry land? And how pharaoh's chariots chased after them only to drown in the sea? Then Moses met God on Mount Sinai. He received the Law, written on stone tablets by God himself. But while Moses was on the mountaintop, the people began to doubt. They gave themselves over to sin and corruption and Moses became angry and smashed the Ten Commandments. That's why he, and all the children of Israel, were condemned to wandering the desert for 40 years. Moses died within sight of Canaan, and Joshua took over.
But then something utterly unbelievable happened. As the people reached the Promised Land, as they finally arrived at the destination that was the whole reason for their arduous journey, they stopped. Completely. They didn't rush with joy into what God wanted to give them. Instead, they set up camp on the far side of the river and refused to enter.
I have never, ever understood why it took the Israelites so long to take possession of the promise God had made to them for generations. I mean, who in his right mind, would make a 40-year trek to the border of God's promise, and then STOP? Who would delay marching into the land when they could, for all practical purposes, taste the milk and honey flowing there?
Well, this year, I understand. We've been out of our fire and smoke damaged house for almost six months, and I've grown accustomed to living in exile. Until recently, the date to return home has been so far away, that I haven't even thought about it. Actually, I haven't allowed myself to think about it. But now that the last reconstruction line item has been scheduled, it seems that we actually will be returning home soon. What we've been waiting for and dreaming about since the night of the fire is going to happen after all.
Then why is it I feel more dread than excitement? I think it's because I'm afraid of the enormous amount of work it will take to move us -- and all of our stuff -- back in. I'm scared I'll mess it all up somehow, or that something will go radically wrong. But underneath it, I think the biggest reason for all my reticence is that somewhere over the past few months, I lost sight of the goal. Complacency has that effect.
Six months of exile can teach you a lot. It can also knock the stuffing out of you. But as we approach the end of this ordeal, and as fresh paint goes on the walls and new carpeting is installed, I know there is so much more than all that to be grateful for.
Home isn't really a location. It's a state of mind and a set of relationships. We can "be at home" or "make ourselves at home" anywhere there is personal warmth and love. That's because our real home isn't here anyway. Human history testifies to the truth that the promises of God are not empty. But sometimes his blessings are so abundant, they overwhelm us. When that is the case, we can choose to rejoice in the work we must do to take full possession of what God offers us. Or, we can doubt and set up permanent camps on the wrong side of the river -- close enough to see the Promised Land, but too far away to live there. I pray that every one of us may be able to set our fears and failures aside, keep our eyes on the prize, and take hold of the promises God makes -- and keeps.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is the author of “Adoption: Room for One More?”, a speaker, musician and serves as an Aquisitions Editor at Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.