moses, by the river, with coffee

A couple mornings ago I sat huddled over a cup of coffee, reading some words that were penned a few thousand years ago by an old man. An old man who, as a baby, survived a solo river rafting trip by being plucked from the water by a princess and raised in royal courts.

But that was all ancient history by the time the old guy wrote what I was reading. He’d lived a crazy life and seen things that would make most people run for the hills…but not him. Not Moses. Because Mo had known the one true God up close and personal and knew – beyond all doubt – how great and good and terrifyingly beautiful He is.

So, Moses and all the people of his nation are camped on the banks of a different river and he’s reminding them of everything that had taken place during the past forty-something years. They had been rescued by this all-powerful, holy God and set on a path toward greatness. But they blew it. OH did they blow it. Time and again. They kept trying to do things their own way and chase after stuff that God hadn’t set apart for them.

Doing things like that…all that stubbornstupidchasing…it doesn’t end well.

And Mo…well, he’s getting his people ready for finally…finally…entering into the land that God had promised them. And here is what he said:

10 For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. 11 But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven,12 a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

13 And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. – Deuteronomy 11:10-15

And there I was…thousands of years later…feeling like I’d just been whacked between the eyes by Old Mo’s shepherd’s staff.

Because I have spent my share of time trying to sow seeds and water them and force things to grow out of my own effort. I’ve been trying to chase after things that may not really be what God has prepared for me. I’ve been using all this crazy energy to shape a future of my own design, and it has failed.

Thankfully, I don’t think God is going to make me wander in the desert for forty years like he did Moses’ people. At least I hope I’m correct about that… But I’m finding that I have been wandering in my own kind of way. Lost in the boondocks of well-meaning stubbornness.

A bit more than a year ago, I began falling in love with a remarkable woman. A beautiful person who hit pretty much every criteria I’d set for the kind of lady I’d want to spend the rest of my life with. I’d just come away from a failed second marriage and that reality covered me with thick layers of shame which I continue to carry around. But meeting this incredible woman – we’ll call her Hazel – changed everything. It reminded me that I wasn’t a lost cause…that I wasn’t doomed to be alone…that my past failures weren’t life sentences. I wasn’t completely sure how she felt about me, but I knew she liked me at least a little.

Days, weeks, and months went by and I laid my love on thick like a heavy handmade blanket. It was, I think, too thick. But that’s what a man who has been drowning in hurt tends to do when he sees a lifeboat in front of him. Ultimately, it didn’t work for her. It only chased her away.

And it left me on the banks of a different river singing the same songs of loss and lamentation.

And that’s where Old Moses’s words came into play. He reminded me that my first priority can’t be chasing after a beautiful girl and trying to make her love me. No, my first priority has to be loving God with all my heart and with all my soul and trusting that He – in all of his great and good and terrifying beauty – will lead me to a place I could never make on my own. A place where my heart desires are realized, where my need for love is met, and where my hand matches another’s with precision and design.

Maybe Hazel is that person. Maybe not. I honestly don’t know. I’m trying to not worry too much about it right now and find some healing as I redirect my priorities toward obedience.

Stubbornness hasn’t done much for me, but I have every reason to believe that God will provide. I just need to love and serve and wait.

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