How do you respond (w)hen t(h)e w(i)nd (s)hakes your tem(p)orary dwelling? when the thund(e)r b(r)eaks your sense of calm?
(w)hen t(h)e l(i)ghtning (s)trikes your storehouses? when all around you is (p)urifying floodwat(e)r and fi(r)e life-giving, all-consuming?
What do you do when the Father answers your prayers with a storm and a whisper?
Do you run away? Where else would you go?
There is a response when the w(i)nd sh(a)kes your te(m)porary dwelling. when the thunder (b)reaks your sens(e) of calm.
when the lightning (s)trikes your storehouses. when all around you is purifying floodwa(t)er and f(i)re, (l)ife-giving, a(l)l-consuming.
This poem would not be what it is today without the contributions of Andrew Wilson. He helped with both the structure and the content, improving the rough draft immeasurably and guiding the poem to its final form. I’m incredibly grateful for his feedback.
In Numbers 9, we read of how the Lord led the people of Israel in the wilderness.
So it was always: the cloud covered [the tabernacle] by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.
The plan was fairly simple: when the cloud lifted, the people moved; when the cloud settled, the people camped. The Lord, it seems, clearly set the direction and the schedule for the journey.
But while the plan seemed consistent throughout the journey, the schedule fluctuated. Sometimes the stay was simply overnight, sometimes it was for a few days, and sometimes it lasted for a month or more. Regardless of the length of the stay, however, the people obeyed.
At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.
Things may not be so different for us today. Although the Lord’s methods may have changed (I don’t know anyone who moves or stays based on the leading of a cloud), the Lord still directs our paths and our timelines. Some follow him to a new city only to be called away after a year or so while others remain for years. Some follow him into ministry positions for brief seasons while others devote decades to the same work. Whether work, relationships, ministries, homes, schools, or any number of things, the seasons these things last aren’t always what we’d expect. His ways truly aren’t our ways. Nonetheless, he knows the way, and his timing is right.
I wonder if Israel ever wanted to stay but were called to go. I wonder if they ever wanted to go but were called to stay. I’m sure we can each relate to such feelings. The Lord doesn’t always lead in ways we find comfortable. We lay our requests before the Lord, but we do not always get our way. Many of our hopes and plans are dashed upon the throne of grace. But the Lord remains good, the guide in the darkness, the provider in the wilderness, the certainty in the uncertain, the true hope for the future. He doesn’t always tell us his plans or reveal his purposes, and, when he does, they don’t always align with our own. Still, he is trustworthy, steadfast, faithful, kind. His love endures, and he remains worthy of our worship.
So follow him. Let us be like Israel here, attentive and obedient to the Lord’s leading. No matter when or where he leads, trust him to know best. And rest in his loving lordship over your life.
I do not trust my heart,
These feelings, these desires,
For though they, at the start,
Resemble warming fires,
They turn to fun’ral pyres.
So teach me to aspire
For your refining fire,
And, for your glory, start
Me t’ward a pure desire,
One after your own heart.
The hearts of men may not detect
Distinctions ‘twixt a noble trait
And meaner ones. They thus effect
No proper fight against the state
Of their impurity. But God
Knows well what yet resides within
The cage of bone and flesh. His rod
Gives direction and discipline
To wayward men that they may be
Saved from their state of sinfulness.
Corruption, at his word, must flee
(Proximity of holiness).
So fear not God’s refining fire,
Let go the inexcusable,
Follow the path out from the mire,
And trust the holy crucible.
At the word of the Maker, the earth
Is brought forth to revolve round the sun
To the praise and the glory of one
Who possesses an infinite worth.
He shines forth from perfection’s high’st form,
From great Zion, with sounds of a choir.
Ev’ry step is preceded by fire;
When he walks, he is shrouded in storm.
His salvation is given, not bought,
For he owns all that we could present.
Sacrifices for vices are spent,
Yet they profit the Almighty naught.
So walk not in the pathways of death.
Ponder life ‘fore your lips claim his pow’r.
Let the fear of the Lord fill each hour,
And let thanksgiving fill ev’ry breath.