Have you ever had a concept in your head and all your life you thought about it a certain way and then one day, someone suggests a different perspective and your whole world is rocked? Well, I just had this kind of experience.
In Hebrews 11 and 12, the author is re-capping the stories of Old Testament heroes: Abel. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’s parents, Moses himself, the Israelite’s, Rahab. After listing all these people and summarizes their stories, he goes on to list several more people that he just does not have the time to talk about: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. All of these people and all of these amazingly fantastic stories of what their faith had done. Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, served justice, gained what was promised. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, had their weaknesses turned to strengths, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. All these people, going through fantastic things and terrible things, were commended for their faith.
Just yesterday I wrote about my husband and I going through the journey of buying our first house and filing for custody of our nephew Josiah. The title of my blog, ironically enough, was “Not What I Had in Mind…” and when I got home from work last night, my husband shared something that was not what I had in mind. As I walked in the front door, I see Zane lying on the couch, curled up in blankets, watching videos on his phone. This is not an unusual sight, but something was off in his eyes. I asked how his day at work went and he replied, “Well, I don’t have to go in tomorrow.” I instantly start to worry and I ask what he meant by that. “I got laid off, honey.” he said with a sigh of disappointment. It took about a minute for him to convince me that he wasn’t joking. Immediately I go into panic mode, my blood rushing, tears welling up in my eyes. I grab the dog’s collar remote and take the dog outside for an excuse to get some air. I come back inside and sit beside him, laying my head on his chest. Now comes the water works. Zane, being the way he is, asked me to talk through what I was feeling and so I did. No job means no house, no house means no children or pets, no house means no Josiah. My heart was broken. I had all these plans and everything was going better than I expected! Doors were opening and then they all shut in my face simultaneously.
The heroes of the Old Testament followed the path they were commanded to follow despite their doubt, and I’m confident that they had their moments. Think of Gideon who was chosen to save the Israelites from the hand of Midian. His clan was the weakest in all of Manasseh and he was the least in his family – As if someone like him is supposed to defeat the Midianites. Gideon had an army of 32,000 men to face the Midian army of 135,000. That seems pretty outnumbered if you ask me. God saw that Gideon’s army was too large. Too large compared to what, a flock of geese?! God whittled this army down until all that was left was 300 men and they STILL defeated Midian without even engaging in combat! Gideon and all the people listed above followed God’s call and walked through their obstacles side by side with Him.
When I thought about the straight and narrow path I imagined a path that was not particularly exciting. It was straight and narrow (of course), but there was not a single thing that catches my eye. And that’s when I realized that I’m viewing this path completely wrong! When you see a path in the woods, what do they look like? They’re uphill, downhill, twisty-turby, anything but straight and typically not that narrow. So what does that say about the path we are called to take? God’s straight and narrow path is rated “Extremely Difficult” on the map scale- it is the hardest path you will ever take! The paths we take in the woods avoid any kind of obstacle. If there’s a tree in the way, we go around it- if there’s a boulder in our way, we go around it- if there’s a stream in our way, we go around it or build a bridge to go over it. Never do we go THROUGH it. In our lives, every obstacle is meant to be gone through, not around or over or under.
About 2 weeks ago, I was encouraged to take the steps implemented by Dave Ramsey to get our finances under complete control and to start out our marriage on a good track. We were never outrageously foolish with our money, but we were just like “normal people” and spent our “extra money” on things we didn’t need. I started listening to his podcast -The Dave Ramsey Show- and began working out our EveryDollar budget. I saw where our money was going and didn’t like what I was seeing. So Zane and I made a decision to make Godly choices regarding our finances. Without this plan in place, I would REALLY be panicking over this lay-off. But God knew all of this would happen and He loves us so much that He placed tools and people in our lives to help us go THROUGH these obstacles. I think of the expression “beating around the bush”. Notice that it says AROUND not THROUGH. The bush being the problem in this scenario; beating around it is going to solve nothing. But take an ax through? Now that’s a different outcome there, isn’t it? Going over, around, and under obstacles and trials does not grow us, it does not make us stronger, it does not build character, it does not solve our problem. But, by God’s grace, pushing through them? Now that’s a different outcome there, isn’t it?