I used to wonder how the Israelites could have forgotten God’s faithfulness so quickly after being delivered out of Egypt. God had worked such obvious wonders right before their eyes. They had witnessed the plagues, walked through walls of water, and had been delivered from their enemies. I thought that if I had seen such great wonders with my own eyes, I would never have forgotten.
But I don’t think so well of myself anymore. Having walked in my own desert, I understand how feeble my memories of past provision can be when the sun burns hot. How easily I forget victories won long ago when the weight of my current need presses heavily upon me. My faith can become fragile when the answers to my current questions are beyond sight.
Thankfully, God is not surprised by my frailty. Instead, my Father reminds me to remember.
Recently, I spent a week in South America leading worship for a missionary retreat in the Colombian countryside. The mountain ranges were endless, sometimes hidden by mist and sometimes bold under a clear sky. The place was peaceful, serene – but in my weariness I couldn’t rest. I came to the retreat running on empty.
As I have noted in my previous article, this season of transition has been filled with decision after decision, leaving me exhausted from the emotional and spiritual efforts of discernment. The presence of Yahweh has often felt distant, and I have noticed my tendency to grumble in the midst of my own lostness and confusion. Old questions about my life and decisions made in former years have come up again, making me question my current direction. Did I make the right turn way back there? Was I supposed to go right when I went left?
Transition unmoors us. It disconnects us from who we’ve known ourselves to be in the past before we can clearly and comfortably recognize who God is inviting us to become.
In the grief and confusion of this breaking, it’s easy to question fundamental aspects of our identities and mindsets that were taken for granted before transition hit. This flurry of questioning can dizzy and dismay any follower who finds herself in the desert. (If you’re going through a time of transition, I recommend Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges).
In the midst of my wrestling, I shared my struggle with some missionary friends at the retreat. During a prayer session with a couple of these friends, one of them said to me, “God has done a great work of freedom in your life in the past. You’ve been freed from heavy chains. But it’s like the chains are still hanging in your closet, and lately you’ve been going back to look at them.”
The statement that God had done a great work in my life really startled me.
God has done a great work in each of our lives (salvation being the greatest work of all), but I had lost the awareness that my own life is an expression of God’s great work of freedom. I was surprised to hear such a thing, as if there had never been any Red Sea moments in my past. A great work? In my life? When?
Past deliverances started to stand up in my thoughts and remind me of their existence. I realized that I had forgotten my story – the small and grand encounters with God that had brought me to this very spot in my journey. Dizzied by the desert, I was living as if I had never seen the hand of God move powerfully in my life, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I admit, I am a forgetful follower, and God is reminding me to remember the Red Sea. Not as a way of building my hope on another future deliverance, but to remind me of the One who has always been faithfully with me – in the days of plenty and in the days of barrenness.