Dear Hyde Park Family,
I have been living with that passage lately, along with the wider story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about it in the context of our visioning process, as we discern how to best follow the Spirit’s guidance, step by step, into the exciting future that God has for us.
I’ve also been thinking about it on a more personal level, praying for any of us who might feel like we are in the middle of a wilderness experience of some kind. If that describes you, then imagine yourself as an ordinary Israelite, long into a journey where all you have known is blistering sand, dry heat, and endless miles. You hold out hope for a day when you will see the Promised Land for yourself, respite and relief flowing like milk and honey into your life. But for now, all you can see is that pillar of fire and that billowy cloud, as you write down your reflections …
Day 6,804: Still wandering through the wilderness. Sand in every direction, as far as my eye can see. Still no Promised Land in sight. The days are long and filled with the tedium of routine. For what seems like the hundredth time, we finished assembling our family tent and helped assemble the tabernacle. The children are out gathering the morning manna, and my aging parents are trying their best to stay cool and hydrated. Every day is the same. I’m tired.
I look up at the sky at least two dozen times a day, often out of both habit and boredom. Sometimes I try to will that pillar of fire forward, and wish that cloud into motion, just to feel like I’m making progress. But most of the time, they just stay still. And so do I. I wish I could jump ahead, ahead of Moses and the elders, ahead of the fire and the cloud, ahead of just standing still in this miserable period of waiting. But that is not the way this journey has been.
I am left with little else to do but watch, wait, and be ready to move when it is time to move. When it is time to take the next step forward, God reveals it to us. When it is time to take the next step after that, God makes that clear, too. I try not to worry about the steps that are to come, for long ago I had to let go of my itchiness to predict the future.
For now, I must remain vigilant, patient, and content. God has given me and my family all we need to make it through today. Food, water, shelter, the companionship of others, and freedom from our past. But most of all, God has given us hope. Hope that there are brighter days ahead, without fear or sadness, worry or want. And with every move of the fire and the cloud, we are one step – one painstakingly slow but steady step – closer to claiming God’s promise.
Hyde Park family, I encourage you today to be in the moment. Rest in the presence of God, and be open to the presence of others around you. Live in the present. May your every breath be evidence of the Spirit of God within you. Wait with vigilance, so that when God makes it clear for you to take the next step, you will be rested and ready to follow that fire and that cloud.
Grace and peace,
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist