I heard him before I saw him. That sound of futile fluttering, wings going nowhere. I finally saw him, high up in the barn, desperately looking through the window to freedom, absolutely wrong about how to get there. Bone weary from trying. Exhausted.
He didn’t want me to catch him. He didn’t trust me. Humans are the enemy, right? But he was tired and had exhausted all the other options he could see, so he didn’t put up much of a struggle. Once I got up high enough to reach him, it wasn’t hard for me to gently wrap my hands around and carry him back down, away from the window, away from freedom—at least as far as he could see.
He struggled a little, but what is a tiny little bird’s struggle when he’s caught up in the strong hands of a grown up? I’m sure he wondered what I was doing. Where is she taking me? he surely must have screamed out inside his head. Away from the window, away from the light, away from freedom… but really I was taking him away from the lie—the lie that was a window, promising an escape but only enslaving. The window tempted him with the Promised Land, all the while keeping him from it. He would have stayed there, hitting his head against the wall, over and over again until it was too late—convinced he knew the way out. The window would have killed him. I’ve seen it so many times.
So often the road to freedom is a surprising one. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, I guess. It’s nothing new. The roundabout, unexpected journey to the Promised Land was made famous by the Israelites, but still, we struggle to believe ours will be just as roundabout. We naively think our route should be direct.
We’re like that little bird today, staring through the window right at it. We can see it just before us, everything we want. It’s just there. But we’re so busy looking at what lies just beyond the window, we miss the window itself. We don’t see the obstacles that lie in our path. Maybe we don’t see them because we don’t want to see them, or maybe we literally can’t…but in either case, God is perfectly aware of the dangers of the route that we are convinced is the right one.
So He comes in, maybe He has to trap us, or maybe we are too tired to run away, but in either case, He scoops us up, gently, lovingly, in His big, strong, capable hands, and then he carries us away—away from the light, often into darkness, usually in what appears to be the wholly wrong direction. WHAT is He thinking?!
Maybe we’re too tired to fight and just give up, thinking our life, our dreams, the Promised Land, all of it is lost. But then again, maybe in a surge of last minute desperation we find the strength to struggle against Him. Maybe we scream at Him and try to explain to Him that He’s going the wrong way…that freedom is over there. But what is our feeble striving against the Maker of the Universe? Thankfully, it is nothing.
We give up thinking darkness and captivity are the new normal, but God has other plans.
I remember hearing Beth Moore point out that when Moses asked to see God’s face, God hid him in the rock at the back of his hand. Ok, so that’s not what she pointed out—I already knew that from Exodus 33. She pointed out the reality of what that would have been like. Moses was there against a rock and a hard place…in the darkness. He couldn’t see anything, but he could hear some crazy storms going on outside.
It was dark, but it was dark because God was covering him. He was against a cold hard rock, but he was also covered by the very hand of God…because God loved him and wanted to protect him and keep him safe. He had to wait in darkness; he had to listen to the craziness outside and wonder what was happening; he had to endure the discomfort of snuggling up to a rock for a while…but all of it was worth it, because it positioned him to see the face of God. All of it was evidence of God’s love and protection.
I know sometimes things feel dark, hard, uncomfortable and scary. I know sometimes it feels like you are going the wrong way. But what if that darkness is just God’s hand gently, lovingly covering you? What if it’s just that God is carrying you away from harm and setting you in a place of freedom? What if he’s covering you so that you will be protected, and then positioned to see His glory?
Darkness may not be the enemy we think it is. It may be God’s hand upon us. It may be his love. The real question is, do you trust Him?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Psalm 23:4
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:18-23