God’s Story: From the Diary of a Neo-Israelite

Jul 4, 2012

I met Andrea Dewhurst in Freed-Hardeman University’s theater department. She is a very talented actress and writer and is one of those friends who can always bring a smile to your face. I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by her story as much as I am.

I grew up judging the Israelites of the Old Testament with the self-righteousness of a trust-fund multimillionaire forced to clean a Detroit skate park.  They were (in my limited, ten-year-old, Bible-Belt opinion) the most ungrateful, lazy, bickering people on the planet, and why God himself chose to save them, much less make them his poster children, was beyond me—especially in the Exodus chapters. THEY got to plunder Egypt and travel around conquering pagans and eating heaven-sent honey wafers and miracle-quail. What’s not to like?

Then came 2008. I had just previously been “not re-hired” to a teaching position the past Spring, and to stay in both my apartment and my active church family in Huntsville, Alabama, got a job as an admissions counselor for a local college. I was in turmoil; longing for a meaningful job that used my talents, lonely for a companion, seeking everywhere for artistic fulfillment.  But I did not want to move. I had done my traveling, so I thought, and was ready to plant. The thing about God is, however, He does answer the prayers of the lonely, the longing, the seeking.  He answers with gusto. 

I was again “made redundant” (a British way of saying getting fired, it just sounds nicer) by the admissions job on a Friday morning in February.  I packed my desk, left the office, made phone calls to the unemployment office, a temp agency, and two school districts, and then I fell apart. Even though I couldn’t see it, there was hope. There is nothing God loves more than a good identity crisis, if, of course, He’s allowed to use it. And thus began my wanderings.  Since May of 2008, in this order, I have lived in:

Florence, Alabama;

Elk Mountain, Waynesboro, Virginia;

 Staunton, Virginia;

Lyndhurst, Virginia;

 Florence, Alabama;

Henderson, Tennessee apartment;

Henderson, Tennessee house-sitting;

Florence, Alabama;

Kwinana, Western Australia;

Florence, Alabama;

Safety Bay, Western Australia

Rockingham, Western Australia

…and at least a dozen caravan parks within a 400-mile-radius of Perth. The longest stay was two years, the shortest 14 hours. And in those cities and times, I moved all of my belongings five times, got two masters’ degrees, dated online, got engaged, got married to an English/Australian man, sold a house (my husband’s former home), bought a car, bought a caravan and shipped a dog. Needless to say, the Israelites look a lot more like saints than sinners to me now—they complained about food and water shortages or being attacked by surrounding armies…I complain about not having fabric softener in convenient dispensers.
But deeper than sympathy, I am learning more of The Almighty’s musculature through our travels. It’s not just the constant motion He uses to affect the body; it’s the new vision of myself in the grand scheme of things that must affect my very being. The Israelites and I share some lessons.  Like them, I went from working full time (and often more than one job) to being a 33-yr-old retiree, for all intents and purposes.  That gives me, like them, an inordinate amount of time for self-reflection and a temptation to meddle. I have to find ways of making my days meaningful and not menial. I, like them, have to be turned from a slave to a sovereign through forced tourism. Let me tell you, there is no contentment like the contentment you have to find when it’s one hour from sunset and you don’t know where your home for the night, money for food, nor spout for water will be. I have done my share of crying out for Egypt.  My conversations with God (and His servant, my husband) often mirror Exodus 14:12-14:

“It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians (for me, “school children”) than to die in the desert! (read: “waiting in a trailer park for immigration status to clear”).” Moses (my husband) answered the people (the crying wife) “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians (the ants/dust/dirty shower stalls/non-working ovens) you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you. You need only to be still.” (pretty much verbatim)

What I didn’t know at age ten that I’m beginning to know now is that “be still” often means literally, absolutely, still.  Sit on your hands if you must.  Bite your lip. Don’t even flutter your eyes. If I do one thing to change my circumstance, I tend to take credit for all of it—therefore I must, must in the face of all that annoys, enrages, or terrifies me, be utterly still. I must not bring disgrace by longing for my shattered past; I must not trust my own strength to bring about God’s future. Still.

But then again, sometimes we must move. The very next verse in Exodus shows God reminding Moses of his purpose. “The the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’” And that’s the crux.  God is not an enabler for our fear, nor a scapegoat for our inactivity. The most wise Israelites know when movement is prohibited and when it is necessary.

That’s where I stand currently; at the intersection of stillness and movement, trust and inspiration. Just yesterday my husband and I got word that our first round of visa application was accepted, which means that we will be granted an interview for his permanent residency in the United States.  We celebrate that victory after over a year of planning, and paperwork, and silence from the powers that be—we can now see movement! But that news came a mere four days before my visa runs out in Australia, making yet another cross-planetary trip inevitable.  We must be trusting that God will preserve our stillness amidst the constant flux of homes, flights, skype, interviews, and financial compromises. We are slaves being taught our sovereignty in the desert. And I know that the LORD will finish what He has started—even if it does take forty years.

Do you find it hard to study the Bible?

It doesn’t have to be.

Let me help you learn a technique for studying that makes it simple. Join me as we study one chapter each week and memorize two verses of scripture each month.

You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life.

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