By Debbie Shope
I was reading about the Exodus recently and was struck by the idea that the waters parting, while certainly spectacular, was only one part of the story. What totally amazed me was that the Hebrew people went through on dry ground. Never mind the walls of water on the side; they waltzed through what was recently a lot of wet earth with no mess, no fuss. God had made a path that was no fail — no sandals getting stuck in the mud, no brown ooze splattering your robe, not even a chance of slipping. If only all of our paths were this clear.
I don’t know about you, but most of the paths that I walk tend to be muddy and strewn with debris. I’m beginning to see that most of that is my own mess. Case in point: I have been studying and training for a year to be certified in a reading program. Last week was the culmination of this endeavor — the final observation where I was to demonstrate all I had learned. I was a wreck. It is not that I was not praying, but I was definitely overloaded on the preparation end. I obsessed over having all of my materials ready, reviewed my lesson plan, and scorned all who took me away from my earnest arranging of the circumstances. As God in His infinite wisdom and sense of humor would have it, the time I was supposed to have that morning disappeared with unforeseen obligations, and the moment for my ‘test’ arrived amid a flurry of unrelated activity. I will spare you the details of this extended ordeal – only to say that I eventually did pass, but it was not pretty.
As I reflected back on the morning, I realized some things. God was willing to prepare a path of “dry ground”, but I chose to forge my own path instead. I made it to the other side, but only after slipping in the mud, stumbling over my “preparations” and limping to the finish. God showed me that my getting to the other side was all His doing from beginning to end, not just today, but over the entire year. And that the whole journey was not for my accomplishment, but that I might serve Him better — that I can do more of what He has called me to do. I am His, and my path is in His hands — I can trust Him. I arrived with muddy feet and a bruised ego, but strangely humbled and more in tune with God than when I began. Which is the point really, isn’t it?
This summer in the Adult School of Discipleship, we will be looking at a number of Biblical characters with ‘muddy feet’. God, for reasons we can only imagine, chooses to accomplish His work through sometimes feeble, and always imperfect, human beings. The amazing thing, though, is that He doesn’t do this because He has to. He has unimaginable power and resources at His disposal. He chooses to carry out His plans through us because He loves us: stubborn, unwilling and ‘muddy’ as we are. He lovingly places us in circumstances where we will know Him better, love Him more, become more of who He sees when He looks at us through Jesus, and somehow, bring about His purposes in the process. What a wonderful and mysterious kind of love this is where the glory of the One who is above all things is intricately bound up with the well-being of His faint-hearted creatures. Thanks be to God!