Following When We Can't See
My family didn't have a lot of rules when I was growing up.
But I do remember one rule clearly. It was momentous. "Kids," Mom announced, "I'm making a new rule."
The breath caught in my throat. This could be huge.
"Kids," Mom said, "now that we live on a farm, you need to remember: don't put your hands where you can't see them."
That was all? It seemed like such an insignificant, useless rule. But it mattered.
You see, it wasn't long after we moved out to the farm that we learned our house sat in the middle of a rattlesnake migration path. Yeah. THAT was a happy discovery. (Who knew snakes migrated?) Not only is our farm the home of velvet tail rattlesnakes, but also water moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes. (If you don't know what those are, just think of every species of poisonous snake native to North America. Yup. I live with all of them, plus a few scorpions thrown in.)
The "don't put your hands where you can't see" rule suddenly became very applicable. It changed how we climbed trees (we had to look more carefully before reaching for the next branch). The "snake rule" stuck in the back of my mind when I tramped through bushes and pushed aside underbrush.
Thinking on this today, I realized that God has given us the opposite of that rule. At times, He says. "Look, I'm going to lead you someplace where you can't see what's in front of you." We're forced to feel our way along—not with our hands, but with our decisions. Moment by moment, we're brought to places where we must make definitive choices. We base those choices on God-given wisdom. Then we go for it.
All along, in the back of our minds there is the ever-present threat of failure. Our choices may lead us down a path we don't anticipate. Our choices may lead us to places that aren't glamorous or even particularly happy. For a season, we may be brought to a place where the loneliness and emptiness makes us say, "Why here, Abba?"
And in those moments, we're faced with the truth that just because those places are difficult doesn't mean that God led us there by accident. He led us there for a reason. The challenge is to discover that reason; and if the answer isn't available, we're to at least discover God's heart for our attitude in that situation.
I don't know why God sometimes chooses to lead us to places where we can't see, but I suppose part of the answer is in the question—He wants us there because we can't see. We are forced to feel, step by step, for what's next. And the act of sticking out our hands when by chance there might be a rattlesnake, that takes more than guts. It takes obedience. He wants to bring us to a place where we will obey Him out of trust and love.
There's significance in how He chose to strike Paul blind on the road to Damascus. Because blind people know that they can't see. It's not a matter of debate. Sometimes God has to strike us blind like Paul (or even more often put us in dark, unseeable places) before we stop debating. Sometimes we have to know, know, know, know that we are weak before we'll really believe it.
It's only when we've reached that point—whether we're stretching out our hands into shadows or if we've even grazed a snake's back—it's those times He promises to be strong for us. God doesn't seem to run often to save the cocky or the strong (Ps. 34:18; 51:17). God hears the cries of children like us, the kids who are scared out of our minds yet believe He is present, and He comes running for us.
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