Don't Stop on Six, Part 2: Round and Round
Do you ever feel like you're just walking in circles? I felt like that pretty much all last year. There were a few areas of personal growth I really wanted to see within me and for the love, if I didn't just keep going round and round the same issues, the same temptations, the same circumstances.
I think the Israelites could identify with that. They had been circling Mount Sinai and the desert for not one, not two, but forty years. An entire generation died off. This group circled regret, failure and death every day. But finally, God gave them new instructions, readying the camps to make their way for the Jordan River and into the new land. Finally, breakthrough!! The pinnacle of expectation and hope for every Hebrew man, woman and child ready to shake off the sand and set a new trajectory for their future paths!
So imagine how excited they were when the first set of instructions God gave them in their New Good Life was: March around the city of Jericho six times and then on the seventh day, march around it seven more times.
I mean, seriously? You know they were all, "We've been walking in circles for forty years! You want us now to, wait for it... walk in more circles?!?! Cause marching is just a fancy way of walking and we're not fooled."
Ever feel like Nothing.Ever.Changes?! They thought this was going to be a NEW season. Surely they don't need practice, they were already experts at walking around in circles and getting nowhere new! Why would God have them do this again?!
Wouldn't this seem backwards? I would be tempted to think we are never gonna get there, we'll never move out of this season, we'll never succeed, never move past this weakness... or maybe tempted to question God, do You not care? Is this all a just big game to You?
But interestingly, there is no record of Israel saying any of those things at this point in the story. And we realize suddenly, something IS very different about THIS experience of circling. In the wilderness, the Israelites circled as newly freed slaves, not yet knowing their new Master. Consequently, they wandered around fearful, complaining, grumbling, despairing, doubting. Distrusting. But forty years later, they had matured. During these years of circling, they had gotten to know their Master, the One who thundered with power from the heights of mountaintops while simultaneously nurturing and feeding them from His own storehouses in Heaven. This time, they trusted Him. The knew His heart and that He was good and He was kind and He was for them, and though surely they couldn't comprehend how walking around a walled fortress was going to gain them the city, they followed Him and obeyed.
Going round and round in the wilderness actually led them to a new spiritual place of humility, a quiet heart, sober respect and awe for God. And these spiritual changes led them to the physical changes they were wanting. Don't ever underestimate what He's doing within you. When it seems like He's taking you nowhere externally, He's often taking you deeper internally. He is busy preparing you for what He's prepared you for!
Know what else I love about this story? The Israelites had indeed matured on the inside, but outwardly, they were just a band of nomads. God called them to do battle but they weren't soldiers. They didn't have years of training, nor money for the strongest weaponry, nor education for the craftiest strategizing. They didn't bring much to the table in their own strength as an army about to conquer the land for God.
So you know what God did? He looked at what they did have: experience with walking in circles. And trust. And apparently, that was enough. Do you see God's heart here? He is SO humble and loving - He gets right into their weakness. He understands who they are - just a bunch of walkers. He's not mad that they aren't skilled mercenaries. He meets them in what He knows they can do - both the messiness and the weakness within it all. Walking in circles isn't great, but walking has potential. And He tasks them in what He knows they can accomplish and be encouraged in. He knows they're weak and there's no condemnation, no pressure - He turns their weakness into a victory!
Have you ever offered your specific weakness to be used for His purpose? Maybe you've offered your best to Him, but have you offered your worst? God is willing to get in the middle of it and use that as well! What's that really ugly thing about yourself that you are ashamed or fearful to acknowledge? He knows how to take it, discard the sinful parts of it, and redeem and find the life giving parts of it and turn it around to be used for you and for Him.
So offer all that you have and take another lap.
Next post, Part 3: Circling to Fortify