Last night, my small group took some time to go slowly.
We updated each other on our lives, opening up about the state of our souls. Then we worshiped. Just the five of us (plus a newborn who recently joined our community), just a guitar and djembe. We each picked out some verses for reflection that have been speaking to us lately–
about God’s transcending, transforming peace,
about being still and letting God move,
about learning to be content in everything.
I shared a verse from the Exodus story that has been on my mind lately. When the Hebrews are nearly free of their Egyptian captors, they run up against this big body of water, and they despair. Maybe they can even see across to the other side, but they are convinced they cannot reach it. In front of them lies an impassable obstacle; behind them lies the pursuing enemy. They cry to God and then to Moses, saying:
“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done, bringing us out of Egypt? … It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11-12)
How scared they must have been to prefer slavery to freedom, even if they have to die in the attempt.
How defeated their leader must have felt to see them despair so close to their liberation.
How sorrowful their God must have been to see their lack of faith in His promises.
But how many times have I, like the Hebrews, mistaken the moment of my release for the moment of defeat? How many times have I preferred to stay in the hands of my captors rather than trust the hands of my God? How many times have I turned back when faced with a barrier, to return to the clutches of my own personal enemies?
But Moses tells them, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. The Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Those powerful words wash over me: You have only to keep still. Stop struggling, stop doubting and fearing, stop fighting your own battles. Be still and see that God will deliver you, as promised, to freedom. The enemy you are facing, in whatever form it comes, you will never see again.
My enemies are not Egyptian soldiers. They show up as more personal monsters: fear, anxiety, self doubt. The emotional wounds of my past that never seem to heal. Like the Hebrews, sometimes I fear I will never be free of those enemies. They bristle with weapons, they breathe down my neck, they threaten to consume me. But in these verses, Moses reminds the Hebrews that God will fight for them, even in the battles that seem impossible to win. All they have to do is be still, and the very waters in front of them will part to let them through to safety. The moment that looks like defeat is actually the miraculous moment of deliverance.
Last night, as our little group sang old hymns in the dark of my living room, as we breathed in God and breathed out prayers, as we stilled our souls and renewed our faith, I felt refreshed. I thought about the obstacles I come up against in my life that seem as vast as seas, and I gave them up to God. I thought about the enemies that hound me, and I stopped worrying that I would return to their chains.
Tonight I can face my monsters and be still.
Tonight I can let God fight for me.