I do not get a moment to myself – ever! If I’m in the kitchen, I turn around and almost trip over Ephraim. If I go to the bathroom, the kids (both of mine plus any I am watching that day) sit outside the door, crying and banging on the door until I emerge. If I even think of going outside to take out the trash, they stand at the window and howl! Wherever I go, they always seem to follow, so I have learned to be careful about where I step. I have learned to take a path that will not cause them harm. I guess my parenting radar is always going because I can always sense that they are behind me!
I began thinking about this tonight during family devotions. We are reading about Moses’ life with the children right now, and we have reached the part of his story when he tries to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea in Exodus 13 and 14. The part that seems to impact me the most every time I read this passage is found in Exodus 13:21-22:
“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
The Israelites had been captive in Egypt for 400 years, so I am sure that they had absolutely no sense of direction when they escaped their captors! But God knew the best way! In fact, it says, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’” (13:17). The Israelites would probably have chosen the short cut (wouldn’t any of us?), but just look at the trouble that was waiting for them there! Instead, God led them the way that He knew was better – even if it did take longer to travel. Just like I know that Ephraim will not be safer trying to go under the bed (although he tries!) than going around it, God knows which direction is safer for us to travel and leads us that way if we are willing to take His hand and follow.
While I am standing amazed at God’s goodness in leading me, do you notice how the passage also points out that the pillar of cloud “never left its place in front of the people”? No matter how much I may want my own way, no matter how many obstacles I encounter, God never leaves His place in front of me. Now I can choose to turn my back on Him and head back towards the enemy, or I can even try to take a detour that will only lead to disaster, but God never leaves His place in front of the people. In other words, God never moves! He is right there, all the time, just waiting for us to follow!
Just like Hannah and Ephraim follow me around, I am expected to follow God, who is my heavenly Father and who knows each step that I take! Just like I don’t want Hannah and Ephraim to trip and fall, God doesn’t want me to trip and fall! Unfortunately, just like Hannah and Ephraim, I often choose to try to follow my own path and end up stuck under life’s obstacles. But just as I lean down to pick my children up when they are stuck or have fallen, so my heavenly Father lovingly and compassionately picks me up, brushes me off, and sets me on my feet again.