Uhhm, God? Remember that old offer? Is it still on the table?

Much of the second half of the Old Testament is story after story of the Israeli’s betraying God, repenting, being forgiven, and betraying God all over again.

It’s easy for me to get all self-rightous about this.  Until I’m reminded that their story is my story.  The reason that we’re told this history is to apply to it our own lives.  To recognize that most of us live by these same patterns.

I read Numbers 14 today.  It’s as good an example as any of this.

One member of each tribe is sent to check out the land that is promised to them.  They come back reporting that there are amazing things in that land– but also fierce warriors.  Only two of the spies– Joshua and Caleb– want to do what God says to do.

The rest of them lead the whole nation and are preparing to stone Moses and Aaron.  God shows up.  Moses seems to talk God out of destroying the entire nation and starting over with him.

God explains that of all the people who were alive when they left egypt, only Joshua and Caleb will actually enter into the promised land.   He says that the whole nation will spend one year in the wilderness for each day the spies spent in the land– in other words, 40 years.

The nation, at this point, decides they’d like God’s original offer back.  God tells them not to do it, but they don’t listen.

Here’s some things that resonate with me about this:

#1) God’s offers come with expiration dates.  To obey God after the fact is really to disobey him.  Sometimes, it seems, that he might have protected us and been with us if we did what he wants in His time.   When we try and do things in our time, we do it with out his support, guidance, and protection.

#2) We don’t protect our kids, God does.  The nation cites protecting their children as the reason for disobeying God.  God, with a brutal sense of irony, delivers the kids and only the kids to the promised land. 

#3) Sometimes, when we’re filled with fear and the promise of consequences, we start moving before we think about what we’re doing.  Before God showed up, they wanted to do nothing.  But once he does, when these people are looking at forty years of hard labor.  In their panic, they try to go back to God’s old deal.

#4) I wonder if you could apply the whole denial-rage-bargaining-acceptance  thing to all this.  These are the stages we go through when dealing with a loss.

It seems to me that the whole nation begins in denial.  Denial that Egypt was that bad.  Denial that God’s in charge.  Denial that they’d be smart to obey.

When the spies come back they are so enraged at Moses and Aaron that they nearly kill them.

When God shows up, they attempt to bargain with him, “We’ll take you first offer, God.”

And acceptance?  Well I guess that’s a little later.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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