The Thing God Did That I Can't Stop Thinking About
It's been a challenging year for me. For the first time, I realized depression was the word that described everything about how I was feeling. I started going to counseling again, sitting on a couch once a week to spill all my my feelings and start working through all the mess. I took on a new role at work, but it was months before we hired my replacement, leaving me to do two jobs for a while. I started getting honest with myself and with the people around me, and it led to some hard and heated conversations.
It's been hard.
It's been emotional.
There were many moments where I felt stuck. Overwhelmed. Hopeless.
And every time, I kept coming back to one particularly dramatic and powerful scene from the Old Testament: when God parts the Red Sea. I'm sure you've heard the story, but let me set the scene for you.
The Israelites have been in slavery for a LONG time. They didn't think they would ever get out, but then came Moses, and a bunch of plagues, and a lot of confusion, but they've finally been making the trek to freedom. Pharaoh was not stoked about this-- he wanted them to be slaves forever. He fought hard to keep them trapped under his control, but God had broken their chains and showed them a way out.
So now, the Israelites have made camp by the sea, thinking they could take a rest. But all of a sudden, Pharaoh's chariots and riders and soldiers are approaching, and everyone is freaking out. They thought they were free, finally, and now, on the edge of the ocean, they're pretty sure they're doomed. They think this is the end for them.
They're letting Moses have it, saying things like, "Didn't we tell you this would happen? Didn't we tell you, 'Leave us alone here in Egypt - we're better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.'" (Exodus 14:12, MSG)
And Moses, always a voice of truth, urges them not to be afraid. "Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. ... God will fight the battle for you." (Exodus 14:13, MSG)
This is where it gets crazy.
God tells Moses to lift his staff up and stretch his hand out over the sea. He gives him a simple (and also INSANE) command: "Split the sea!"
The even crazier thing is that he does.
He turns the sea into dry ground. The ocean splits into two sides, making a way through.
Verse 22 says, "The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left."
God made a way where there seemed to be no possible way.
But Pharaoh's soldiers and chariots and horsemen? They still chased them. They, too, hurried to get through the ocean after the Israelites. Just because the Red Sea parted didn't mean the Israelites were in the clear... but as they kept faithfully moving forward, the ocean returned to its normal sea-like state, drowning all the bad guys. Finally, justice! Not a single one of Pharaoh's army survived, but every Israelite did.
Chapter 14 concludes with this: "God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses."
And here's the thing about this story: I see myself in it. So clearly. I'm an Israelite, you guys.
I spent years enslaved to my sin and shame. I thought I would never be free, never get out. I thought there was no way I'd be able to find freedom. But, God. God came in like a wrecking ball, breaking all my chains, leading me on a journey out of that slavery into a new kind of freedom. It wasn't without its struggles, and I knew those old things were chasing after me the whole way, but I kept faithfully following Him. And then, there was the season of my life where I felt like, "okay, I've made it out of the woods, I can stop and rest here. I'll set up camp right here." And when I realized all the bad things had caught up to me, coming after me with a vengeance, I freaked out. I started getting mad at God, yelling at Him like the Israelites yelled at Moses-- "Why did you bring me HERE to die NOW? I would have been better off back where I was before! At least I knew that place, knew how to handle that slavery. This is surely the end for me! What the heck." But, God. (The best part of every story.) But, God made a way. In that very place where I felt trapped between my enemies and the new, unknown ocean, He made a way. When I felt stuck, like I'd rather go back to the slavery I knew than dare to take a step forward into that ocean where surely I would drown, He made a way. He parted the Red Sea. He made a road right through it. He did the very thing that seemed utterly insane and impossible, and my role in all of it was simply to be still and let Him do his thing. And when He did, when the path appeared through that impossible ocean, even when the enemies were chasing after me, determined to reach me and end me, He also silenced those things for good. He protected me, and He destroyed my sin and shame. Once and for all.
And now, here I am, standing on the other side of that ocean. Looking back at the waves, seeing the dead things of the past washing up on the shore, realizing they can't enslave me anymore. Realizing the tremendous power of God, that He would destroy sin and shame like that. Realizing the cross was the final word on all of those things that once held power and had control over me. Realizing that my hope is in something so much greater because of Jesus, because of the freedom He has offered me and made possible for me.
I, like the Israelites, stand in reverent awe before God.
I'm trusting in Him.
Because God? He parts Red Seas. He does the impossible. He is a chain-breaker and a way-maker. He is a heart-healer and a freedom-giver. He is a forgiver and a friend and a force to be reckoned with.
He has made a way out of our slavery into His glorious freedom.
We can trust Him.