Take Me Back to Egypt!

Numbers 14:1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Dear wandering Israelites,

How quickly you’ve become kindred spirits.

Here in the 21st century, I get to see a full view of your story: beginning, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion. I’ve seen the depths of despair you experienced enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years, clinging onto your faith the only way you knew how: through wailing and weeping. I’ve watched in nervous anticipation as Moses tells you that it is time for deliverance. I understand your cycles of doubt and awe and worship and unbelief as you wander in the wilderness.

Many of you die in your 40-year wilderness of waiting, having seen glimpses of God’s glory, but never fully able to walk into the promised land.

I wonder if your premature deaths parallel the realization of my own longings. My resolve to follow God’s commands is waning and warring with a hope long suppressed. Does God have something good in store for us? My faith is wavering, but who else can I turn to? There is no one greater.

But there is so much danger. God will take care of us . . . in His own way. We may suffer for years and die a terrible death. We may survive and see our deepest desires fulfilled in this life. There are no guarantees. We are only promised God’s presence.

And the question is – can we trust God knows what we need better than we ourselves?

We have only the choice to obey or disobey. The final outcome will remain the same.

Friends, I want to go with you back to Egypt. Yes, we were enslaved, but at least we knew where our next meal was coming from (however meager it was), that we had a place to sleep at night (however uncomfortable it was), and we did not have the burden of freedom weighing on our shoulders, heavier than the largest piles of bricks.

The burden of freedom pulls back the veil to expose the internal war within us all. When we take on the burden of freedom, God will call us to do the impossible. It is only when we step out into seemingly empty air to cross a bottomless canyon that we feel something solid beneath our feet, despite all appearances that we are going to break all the bones in our body if we take one more step.

Hebrews 11:13-16 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

If you had the context of Hebrews 11, I believe you would still make the same mistakes. I don’t say this to discourage you, only to empathize with you that your rollercoaster of emotions is the pulse of my own life. The pull of self-rule is tempting no matter how many warning signs and caution tape and examples of faith you receive.

Oh, nomadic Israelites, how my heart hurts for you.

Isaiah 54:5-8
5For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
    I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
    I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord your Redeemer.

Can we believe? With all the context, with the overarching story in view, I will try. But friends, I will fail, just like you . . . as history repeats itself, so will the individual story of the prodigal son. We are all prodigals in our own way, with nothing but a choice to turn away or to turn back. Rinse and repeat.

Homesick for Egypt,
Lindsey

The Beautiful Wishes with a Truth Tree

img_3793“I forgot to show you my story!” my little sister (Big Brothers Big Sisters) shouted from the backseat as we drove to the movie theater for our weekly outing.

“You wrote a story?” I asked, pride swelling. Creativity is one of those things that makes me feel most alive, and seeing this ten-year-old girl get so excited about writing made me ridiculously happy.

“Yeah! But I forgot to bring it.”

“What’s it about?” I asked, intrigued.

“Um, I don’t know, I forget.” Undeterred, I waited for her response. “I forget” is her stock answer to a lot of questions, but if you are patient, she tends to inexplicably “remember”

. . . sure enough . . .

“It’s about a wishing tree,” she said, matter-of-factly.

My grin widened. It sounded like something I would have written at her age. “A wishing tree? That sounds awesome.”

When we returned from the theater, my little sis immediately retrieved her story and gave it to me to read. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation. I read with appropriate enthusiasm.

The story is about a girl named Sharlett and her brother Jeff who discover a wishing tree in their backyard. The tree has only six wishes and each time a wish is made a leaf falls off. When the last leaf falls, the tree dies, and there are no more wishes. Sharlett, Jeff, and her parents quickly go through five of the wishes, but when Sharlett and Jeff realize that there is only one wish left, they try to distract their parents while crafting a plan to keep the last wish on the tree. Despite much deception and trickery from the kids, the mom eventually finds out that the kids moved the tree out of their backyard so that their parents would not use the last wish.

The story ends with a poignant truth:

Mom said, “All the kids come in the house.” She said, “it doesn’t matter if the tree was gone, but tell me the truth.”

Recently, I have discovered what seems to be one of my most precious “wishes” in this life. I have done everything I can to keep my wishing tree alive, including deception and hiding.

“I’m less concerned about what you choose to do, and more interested in what the motives are behind your actions. Help me understand,” said my counselor one evening when I was particularly distressed about what seemed to me to be a strong desire to abandon what God wanted for me and go my own way. Her words disarmed me. Here was someone who simply wanted to understand me. Here was someone who was not panicked or worried about what decision I was going to make. She just wanted my vulnerability.

Maybe a week later, I had decided to tell another couple of friends a little about the difficult counseling journey I have been walking through, so that they would be able to pray for me more specifically. As I drove home that evening, though I knew the war was (and is now, too) far from over, I felt, rather than heard the words seep into my heart and spirit with sudden conviction:

“I’m proud of you.”

I immediately burst into tears right there on the interstate, because I knew I had and have been idolizing something above my God. I have acted in rebellion and have cursed Him. My trust in His goodness continues to be unstable.

And yet, here was the Savior of my soul, to whom no past, present, or future thought, action, word, or emotion of mine is hidden, reassuring me that He was proud of me.

Could it be that our God values us coming to Him in the messy honesty of our brokenness more than He appreciates begrudging obedience? Could it be that I can follow God and be angry with Him at the same time?  Perhaps the Christian life is more about running to God’s grace and love and less about walking in inexplicable contentment than I once believed.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – Psalm 51:16-17

Maybe God is not overly concerned about what we do with our wishing trees. That doesn’t mean that everything is relative. Our actions matter. Our decisions matter. But in the overarching story, our actions will not ultimately hinder His plan of redemption, and God has always been more concerned with the heart than the hypocrite’s righteous deeds.

Maybe God is saying to you and to me:

“It doesn’t matter if the tree was gone, but tell me the truth.” 

The Gamble: A 2016 Poem

RoyalFlush.jpg

A lot of crazy things happened in the world in 2016, but the following poem is more of a reflection of a personal journey of which I am still chaotically in process than a commentary on recent events. I hope it can encourage you in your own life story.

Near the beginning of the year, I decided to gamble on bringing something I had stuffed away for 10 years to the surface. It has not produced the result I was hoping for, but deep down I always knew it probably would not . . . this year has been hard, but God has been good to me through music, writing, counseling, family, and friends.

I’m limping into these first few days of 2017 with a wounded, yet living hope (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The Gamble
by Lindsey Snyder
I never expected to win,
to lay out my cards:
coy smile, Royal Flush

 

well maybe
a 1 in 175,000,000 powerball chance

 

best chance I’d ever have
so why not try?

 

but with only one ticket
the odds were never in my favor
so why can’t I accept that I’ve lost?

 

spent all my money
at the slot machines
trying to get
twenty-four cherries in a row

 

empty pockets, hands, heart
slowly admitting the longings and losses
opening up to higher winnings

 

this I know:
bankrupt hearts are primed to be dealt
a new hand
once they can learn to fold