I have long been a ready, shoot, aim kind of person, a more-the-merrier, an I-am-sure-at-some-point-this-will-come-out-right kind of girl. It means sometimes there is a mess to be cleaned up that I was a part of making; sometimes it means while I am balancing a lot of plates (as a mother of a large household) a few drop, but lately, deep inside of me, there has been this theology shift blossoming . It comes from verse 17 in Colossians 1: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (NIV). Him, not me. Relaxing . . .
It was fifteen years ago we started to share with a few friends and family our whisper-calling to move to Mexico. It was met with mixed reactions; some thought we were shortsighted or ill-equipped (they were right) and some wondered why we didn’t have language training or Bible school (which all would have been helpful). But here’s what I know now: It wasn’t dependent on us. He had been working with orphans in Mexico long before he invited us into that storyline, and it was always Him, not our plan, skills, gifts, resources, passion, or ideas that held it all together. We can read in His book about hundreds of other ill–equipped characters—prophets who couldn’t speak clearly, kings who were mere boys, women with sordid pasts. He knew they were the most likely to ask for help, to reach out because they knew they couldn’t do it alone.
He has gone before us, not just once, but every day and in every relationship we experience or eyewitness is done by Him.
Thanks to a good teaching by Bible scholar Ray Vanderlaan, I have been thinking this last year about Miriam, a Jewish woman whose story we can read in Exodus. She was a slave whose mother was a slave, whose mother was a slave, and so on. She had no reason to believe anything different was ahead. And yet, after Moses’ famous confrontation with Pharaoh (“Let my people go!”) and plagues we can hardly imagine, Pharaoh, that evil captor, finally relented. Imagine how a message of that magnitude got out, in a world without texting or the Internet, or any way of mass communicating.
“We are free, we can go!”
It must have looked like chaos, people running through the streets, shouting door to door. Somehow, Miriam heard that message and took off with her people to a place she couldn’t imagine, to a land she had never seen. She had no idea, couldn’t have fathomed how they were going to get through the enormous sea that separated her from the freedom they were hoping to taste. On her way out of the only dwelling she had ever known, what did she grab for this journey? If it had been me, I might have considered an extra pair of shoes, a family document, a kilo of flour.
How does one prepare for God-journey you can’t picture?
Miriam follows her people across the dry land of the split sea, and when she arrives on the other side, Exodus 15:20 (NLT) says, “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.”
What? A tambourine?
She thought to pack up a musical instrument in her rush to leave slavery? Why would she do that? Because she knew what I am desperate to believe: that in the midst of chaos, precisely in the center of a storyline I don’t understand, I can not only trust He has gone before me, I need to be prepared in a moment’s notice to praise Him when He holds it all together.
This year, under the banner of this new understanding, I am holding a tambourine in hand instead of a bunch of barely balanced plates. I long to praise Him for my own stories of split seas and gifts of freedom. I am listening. . . .
Beth Guckenberger is the mother of a bunch of biological, a bunch of adopted and a slew of foster children. She and her husband direct Back2Back Ministries and just moved back to the US from Mexico where they served for sixteen years. Beth is the author of several books on the journey of their life abroad, including her latest release Tales of the Defended Ones. You can learn more about Beth at her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.