‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[d]
Is the Christian Life Hard or Easy?
So you are setting out to meet the lion at the head of the waterfall.
The waterfall of joy, which satisfies the heart’s desires. The waterfall of delight. The waterfall of refreshment.
* * *
But the way is long and sweaty, and there are temptations everywhere. You look down and see gold–fool’s gold, real gold? Should you forget the waterfall, and investigate?
You meet people whose life is working perfectly well. They don’t believe in no waterfall, they tell you.
People who started out with you are now rich and famous. They have no longer look for waterfalls; they just enjoy their life.
* * *
And as you continue climbing up to the waterfall, you see the hucksters: people who have become rich and famous and celebrated preaching about the waterfall, singing about the waterfall, writing and blogging about the waterfall, running conferences about the waterfall. Like serious money, fame, adulation.
You would kind of like the fame and money and praise too.
Have they really reached the waterfall? Drunk of it? Or is talking and writing about more rewarding?
You do not know. All you know is that at the waterfall a man once said there was life in its fullness. There was peace which the world cannot take away. You would like peace to permeate your personality. There is the joy which no one can take away. Oh, you want to live in that joy. At the waterfall, you will never thirst again. Oh, and you are restless.
And you must continue, the long, arduous, solitary, uphill slog uphill to the waterfall, to know God in his fullness instead of stopping where you are and speaking, writing, blogging and tweeting about the waterfall. Basking in all the attention and money and fuss and power and admiration.
For no one will know that you haven’t actually drunk of the waterfall of joy and peace and fullness.
No one except you, and the lion who lives at the waterfall
* * *
Forbid it, Lord.
Christian writing, blogging, speaking, song-writing which is not based in utter honesty is a waste of time.
It is telling other people about a waterfall we have heard tell of, but have not yet reached. Or of a waterfall we once drunk of, but no longer do. Worse, it is talking about tangential things, the birds, mammals, trees and flowers on the way to the waterfall, instead of the waterfall itself
We have given up walking the walk for talking the talk.
Forbid it, Lord, that we whose trade is words ever substitute writing, speaking or blogging of you for serious time spent with you at your waterfall of delight.
May our delight in using words well never compromise our delight in you, the Word who was before all things, and in whom all things hang together.
In an extraordinary passage in Exodus, after the Israelites have fashioned a golden calf, God tells Moses, (Ex. 33:1) “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
So they were promised their hearts’ desire, but not God’s presence or protection
But Moses says: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
Which pleases God who answers, 14 “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
(Upon which, Moses, seizing the moment, cheekily increases his ask, “Now show me your glory.”)
* * *
I first lingered on this passage about ten years ago during a Beth Moore Bible study. I came late, and stood at the back of the room, as Beth, on the DVD, was reading out this passage.
My Promised Land then would have been literary success with the book I was then trying to write–with much difficulty as the girls were 6 and 2.
Did I want to enter my Promised Land even if God was not with me?
I had not thought about it before. I said, bravely, “Lord, I do not want to enter my Promised Land, if you do not go with me.”
And got tearful, because I was not sure if I meant it. I wanted my promised land so badly you see. Just the thought of never entering it made me tearful.
* * *
Fast forward eleven years. My promised land, I am afraid, still involves writing. It is the great love and interest of my life.
But do I want to enter any writing-related promised land without God? Absolutely not. Couldn’t contemplate it. I wouldn’t survive the work, the stress, the demands.
I would lack wisdom and direction. I might make up my own directions, and then second-guess them. How much better to get them from God!
I would miss having little rest breaks, and checking in with God. I would miss the flashes of intuition, wisdom, inspiration, guidance that come from prayer.
* * *
Ten years ago when I said, “Lord, I do not want to enter the Promised Land without you,” I felt so noble. But I wasn’t kidding God. He knew that my heart’s desire was really the Promised Land of literary success.
In fact, I didn’t even kid myself. Tears rolled down my cheeks, as I stood at the back of the room saying, “Lord, I do not want to enter the Promised Land without you,” because the thought of not entering my promised land, with or without God, was too sad to contemplate.
I clearly need more time in the desert to learn to put God first.
Now I, of course , do care more for God than for my promised land, because I know that I would not be able to do the promised land without him. The milk would curdle, the honey cloy.
But, luckily, he says to those who want his presence more than the Promised Land, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”