Monday, October 14, 2013

The Journey Part 1: The Things We Can Control

Posted by Michael

This is the first installment of a series of posts entitled The Journey.

When the people of Israel escaped their slave existence in Egypt, their challenges had just begun. There had been 70 people who initially travelled to Egypt to escape the ravages of a seven year long famine. Those were the sons of the man Israel (Jacob) and their families. Now after four hundred years of slavery, the nation that bore Israel’s name were numbered at well over a million. Imagine a million slaves stumbling into the desert with no clear destination!  The plan for what was to happen next wasn’t very clear. What was clear was that there was no plan B. The only thing behind them was the Red Sea and thousands of dead Egyptian soldiers. The only options available to them were Moses, the road ahead, and a God they thought had forgotten them. Where do you begin when everything you have ever known has been swept away? How do you move forward to a future than isn’t clear at all?

Those questions sound pretty familiar don't they? 

Our present is spent up a moment at a time. Each moment gets shoved back into the past whether we are ready to let it go or not. Our past is a collection of successes and failures, laughter and tears, and while there is encouragement to be had and lessons to be learned by looking at our past, just like the people of Israel, going back to live there isn’t really an option. So, what do we do? We plod forward into our own deserts, toward a future that often seems unclear and just out of reach. How do we survive those days of doubt and uncertainty? What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

The first step in any journey is to make sure that you are thinking productive thoughts. The thoughts we think drive everything we do and everything we feel. The very first step in dealing with our thoughts is to focus on what we have and not on whatever it is that we don’t currently have.  For the people of Israel this meant forgetting the predictability they had in Egypt. It also meant that it was not going to be helpful to obsess over the fact that they didn’t really know where they were going. There was no use in worrying about the desert terrain or anything else they couldn’t predict or control. Their journey started with focusing on what they did have, freedom (after 400 years, they were no longer slaves), hope (God was promising to give them a home), and the presence of God in their midst. The more they soaked in thoughts of their freedom, and the hope they had, and that God was with them, the more clearly they would be able to think, and the better they would feel. Being stripped of worry also made them ready for whatever action might be required of them in the future.

I spend way too much time thinking about things I don't have, or that I don't know, or that I can't control. How about you?

What thoughts are you thinking that aren’t taking you anywhere? What thoughts only bring worry and confusion? What are you trying to control, that is uncontrollable. What unknown things are you trying to predict? Life becomes brutal when we only think about what we don’t currently have, especially when the things that we do have are so amazing. Like the Israelites, we have freedom, hope, and the presence of God with us on the journey. This is where our journey begins….

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