I Don’t Wanna Go

If your Presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?

Exodus 33: 15-16

Like any good Christian, I like to devote at least an hour of my day to reading the Bible. However, like every Christian, I am an imperfect person, and as much as I would like to devote an hour of my day to studying Scripture, I usually forget, get distracted, or end up prioritizing other things.

Since this happens quite frequently, I found myself last night nearly ten days behind on my Bible reading plan. Realizing I would only get further behind if I didn’t take some time to sit down and read, I ended up spending about an hour and a half reading through Exodus. In the midst of the many chapters and verses, one passage in particular jumped out at me.

In Exodus 33: 12-23, Moses is speaking to the Lord. (This in and of itself is crazy to me, because in verse 11, it says “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to His friends”. Not only is Moses speaking to the Lord and hearing response, he is actually having a face to face conversation with God. So. Cool. But I digress.)

This passage goes on to share a conversation between Moses and the Lord where Moses starts to question God about what is going on. The Israelites at this point have escaped Egypt, set up camp in the wilderness, been quite whiny, and have actually built an idol for themselves with the help of Moses’ brother Aaron. Meanwhile, God has done miracle after miracle, parting the red sea, stopping the Egyptians pursuing them, going before them as a pillar of fire and smoke to guide and protect them, providing food and water in the desert, and even giving the opportunity for Moses to come receive direct commandments from Him on Mount Sinai.

To summarize, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. God has been providing and delivering the Israelites time after time, but the people don’t seem to care much and continue turning away from God. A bit of a frustrating situation for Moses to be in, I’m sure, especially as He is trying to help lead this group of people who seem to prefer captivity in Egypt.

Although Moses had some direction from the Lord to “‘bring up this people'” (33: 12) from Egypt, he doesn’t have all the details he is hoping for, and says to the Lord, “if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways”. Pretty reasonable request, right? Just hoping for a few more details, a little more insight, a greater understanding of what comes next.

And then in response, God says

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest

Exodus 33: 14

That’s it. No explanation, no details, no further instruction. It seems passive. Like God doesn’t really want to tell Moses, or like He’s avoiding the question. It seems like a frustrating response, honestly. But it was enough.

God didn’t give answers to Moses. He didn’t tell him what was coming next. He didn’t explain Himself. But, He gave Moses everything he needed – the promise of His Presence. The promise that He would not leave them alone in the wilderness, abandon them, or fail to deliver them. The promise that He would remain with them and not only that, but He would provide rest for them in the stressful, roller coaster situation they were in.

And in response, Moses says:

If your Presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?

Exodus 33: 15-16

Lord, if your Presence is not with us, then it’s not even worth going. Because you, and only you, are what sets us apart from everyone else here on this earth. We are nothing without You.

The truth in Moses’s statement was not just a poetic or passionate declaration of His commitment to God. It was a very factual statement. The Israelites were a very small people group, and if it wasn’t for God specifically choosing to set them apart as a nation, they likely would have been blotted out by the first kingdom or empire they went to battle with. The truth was, the only reason the Israelites were still a nation was because God had selected them – the weak, the insignificant, and the unworthy – to bear His Name.

Here’s the thing about the Bible – God is always using it to tell a story. Often, those stories have a lot of parallels and as one story unfolds, you start to see more and more of the larger story God is writing in the process. In the Old testament, God chooses a nation that is weak, insignificant, and unworthy, and decides to make them the nation that will carry His Name. Then, He sets them free from the nation that is oppressing them. Over many years, the Israelites try to follow God’s commandments, but in the end, are pretty unfaithful. But, despite all this, because of His great mercy, God chooses to love them anyway, covering their mistakes with the blood of sacrifices, and provides for them in every way. In the end, He brings them into the Promised Land, which He has set apart for them and makes them into a great nation, all because of who He is and what He has done.

This is only a small piece of the story the Old Testament tells, but can you see any parallels in this story with an even bigger one that has been told?

How about this – God chooses a group of people who are weak, insignificant, and unworthy, and decides to make them the people that will carry His Name. He sets these people free from the power of sin and death which has been holding them captive for thousands of years. These people, set free from sin and death, try their best to love and serve God, but even then, are often unfaithful. But, despite this, because of His great mercy, God chooses to love them anyway, covering every mistake with the blood of His sacrifice, and provides for them in every way. In the end, He brings them into the Kingdom of Heaven, which He has set apart for them to spend eternity in His Presence, and even on earth, He makes them into a great Kingdom – His Kingdom – all because of who He is and what He has done.

We may not be Israelites, but we are broken, sinful people. And despite this, God has done absolutely everything, even to the point of dying in our place, to set us free from that brokenness. He died for us, and then conquered death, rose from the dead, and gave us the promise of His Presence.

In Acts, Luke accounts Jesus is speaking with His followers and disciples. In chapter one, they ask Jesus what His plans are, what is coming next, and what they should expect. In a very similar way to how God answers Moses in Exodus, Jesus replies,

It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1: 7-8

When we make Christ the Lord of our lives and choose to follow Him, we receive the Holy Spirit, which is His Presence within us. The Holy Spirit is what sets us apart from the rest of the world, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives us peace (John 14: 25-27). Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will always be with us (John 14: 15-17). His Presence is what shows the world that God has chosen us to bear His Name, and that we have found favor in His sight.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2: 9-10

Back in Exodus, Moses is seeking answers. Things are not going the way He expected, but He knows God has a plan. In Acts, the disciples are seeking answers. A lot has happened over the last few years that they didn’t understand, but they can see God has something in mind. And likewise, today, I am seeking answers. Although I know God has called me and is preparing me for some things in life, I don’t really understand what is happening right now. But, I know God is in control.

What great comfort there is knowing that I am not the first person in history that isn’t getting the answers that I was hoping for when I asked God. And praise God for the even greater comfort which He gives through His Spirit.

I may not know what God is doing right now, but I do know that even when I don’t have answers, the clarity I am hoping for, or the details of the situation, I do have the only thing I will ever need – God’s Presence.

Like Moses in the desert, I want to see the land

But like Moses in the desert, I can’t fully see your plan

Still your love doesn’t stop, When I see the land from a mountain top…

…I don’t wanna go if you’re not going before me

“I Don’t Wanna Go” by Chris Renzema

God is going to take me a lot of places in my life that will be unexpected. I will go through many situations that I do not understand. But no matter where I go or what I do, I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything if the Lord does not go there with me. Because it is only through Him that I am set apart. It is only His Spirit in me that makes me distinct from the world. Without Him, I am nothing.

Father, I may not understand what you are doing. I may not know the details or have the clarity I want. But what I do have is Your Presence. Remind me often, Lord, that Your Spirit is enough. And Father, let Your Spirit go before me. I don’t want to go anywhere without Your Presence there to guide me and strengthen me. Without you, I am nothing, and all I do would be worth nothing. Thank You, Lord, for promising your Presence and peace, no matter what is going on, no matter how hopeless a situation may feel or how confused I may be. Thank You for everything you are doing in advance. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Weeds

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When reading this passage in 2 Corinthians, I tend to skip the beginning part about the “thorn” and “messenger of Satan” and stick to the park about “grace” and “power”. But the Lord has been showing me the significance of this passage and its application in my life. He has taught me a LOT, and I would like to share as much of it as possible.

“I created this blog with the intention of it being a place to document my spiritual journey, including the flaws, failures, struggles, accomplishments, victories, and joys of my everyday life. I want it to be a place where I can be real. I want it to be a place where I can share the things that I am learning and ways that I am growing spiritually. I want it to be a place where I can remember the goodness and the love of my Father and the incredible things He is doing in my life.”

I wrote this statement in my very first blog post back in January 2019. I started this blog to make memories. I wanted “to be able to look back on these posts and see how far God has brought me… That on days I am struggling, I will be able to look back and remember the grace of God… That on the good days I can look back and rejoice and praise God for the love he has poured out over me….That the words I write now will be seeds planted that will grow into something more.”

That was my goal. The words I wrote then sting a little bit to read now, though. I was really easy to say I would share my flaws, failures, and struggles, alongside the accomplishments, victories, and joys, but that has failed to happen. Not because I have not struggled or failed in my life. Not because I don’t have flaws. (I have so many more than you could ever know, trust me.) I have not shared them, because I find it embarrassing. I find it humiliating to admit that I am weak, struggling, hurting, making mistakes, and failing. Basically, I don’t like to admit I am a fallen, sinful human being just like everyone else in this world. Because of this pride, I have missed out on sharing some of the most incredible lessons God has taught me. The growth I have experienced in the hard times in my life has been hidden.

My heart is like a plot of land filled with weeds. The soil is good and full of nutrients that allows for growth – it was created that way – but for too long I have given these weeds access to the soil. They have taken over and become unmanageable. I can still try to pull them up on my own, but I do not have the proper tools for it. As I tug at the weeds, they snap off, leaving the roots behind in the soil. Since I don’t have anything but my hands to dig the roots out, a new weed springs up from the same root. No matter how many times I tug on the weeds and try to make my garden look nice, I will never be able to grow anything else in it, because the weeds are still taking over the soil. All I am accomplishing on my own is covering up the things which are now hidden beneath the soil. I will never be able to have things which bear fruit in that garden of my heart, because I do not have any seeds, I could not dig a hole deep enough to plant them without the proper tools anyway, and even if I could, the weeds would choke them out and take all the nutrients they need to spring up and grow.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

When I made the decision to follow Christ, my heart was exposed to His brilliant light and glory. This light fell on the garden of my heart, and because of the new light, the weeds in my life began to spring up in the soil again. They were no longer hidden beneath it, but instead became exposed in His light. In an effort to stop the growth, I tried to cover everything up with whatever I could find – trying to block the light so the ugly, nasty weeds would stay hidden beneath the soil. But that’s not how it works when you walk in the light.

Nothing I could do by myself was able to fix the problem I was having. I was incapable of taking care of these horrible weeds on my own. But that is to be expected of someone who is not a Gardener. Patiently standing nearby, offering help, but waiting until I opened the gate to let Him in, was the true Gardener. Finally, when I realized how desperately I needed help, I allowed him to come into my garden and help me. He pulled sharp tools from his bag and began His work on the weeds, but instead of trying to pull them out, He attacked them at the root. As the tools broke the soil of my heart, it hurt. As He uprooted the weeds and broke them away from the ground, it hurt. But slowly, over time, He removed each of the weeds.

He could have stopped there – it would have been more than enough – but He didn’t. Instead, He took a bag of seeds He carried with Him, and began placing these seeds in the soil where the weeds had been. Then, carefully, He turned over the soil, and covered the seeds. He continued like this, day after day, week after week. Sometimes the weeds were rooted very deeply and He would spend more time making sure every bit of it was removed from the soil.

To my dismay, as I looked back over the parts of the garden behind us, the light was causing the seeds to spring up, but along with the new plants were weeds also breaking through the soil. But I realized this time, to block out the light would also cause the new plants to die. The Gardener came to me and knelt beside me near these new plants and the weeds. He lovingly showed me how to distinguish the weeds from the true plants. Then, He took His hands, and showed me how to take out the small weeds from the soil along with the root. And then, He took His tools and worked beside me. As He removed the larger weeds, He helped me to work at the smaller ones so they would not take deep root in the soil again. Over time, from seeing His work, I learned more and more how to tend to my garden. I grew in my understanding and he graciously taught me more and more. I would never be a Gardener like Him – He had understanding of things beyond my imagination – but I could learn from walking beside Him how to be more like Him.

The light continued to expose weeds, but I finally saw the importance of the light as my new plants began to grow more and more and bear fruit. However, as other people walked by my garden, I started to become embarrassed. As they looked, they could see the new plants, but they could also see the small weeds springing up and the large weeds the Gardener was still working on. So I began to build a wall around my garden to block the view. I wanted to tell people all about the beautiful garden I had thanks to the Gardener, but because of the wall I put up, they could not see the beauty and importance of it. In fact, some did not even believe me.

The Gardener again saw my frustration, and gently and lovingly showed me what my wall was doing. Yes, it was blocking others from seeing the weeds springing up and the ones still being uprooted, but it was also blocking other things. First, although it blocked the view of the weeds, it also blocked the view of the new plants which would become beautiful and bear fruit. Second, it also was not allowing others to see the Gardener at work. If others were in need of help and could not see the good work he was doing in my life, they would not know who to ask for help. And finally, as we walked to the other side of the wall, He showed me the wall was casting a shadow on my garden as well, blocking out the light. It was not just limiting the view of others, it was actually interfering with the growth of my garden.

This wall can be many things. For me, though, I have seen lately that it is pride. In an effort to make myself look better and more put together, my pride becomes a barrier. As I limit the things I share with the people around me, I also limit what they can see God doing in my life. If nobody can see the impact the light of Jesus has had on my life and the incredible work He has done to save me from myself, then what is the point of all of this?

As I have been discovering this over the past weeks, I have realized that one part of my life this impacts in many ways is my health. So, in the next couple posts, my hope is that I can begin breaking down the wall I have built up and be more transparent about what is going on in my life in this area. God is doing so. many. amazing. things. and His light, glory, power, and love should never be hidden by my own pride.

Heavenly Father, you are so great and so merciful. You have saved me from the sin, pain, and death that I could never have handled on my own – not in an eternity. That is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. Jesus, you took the death I deserved and gave me life with the Father that you deserved. And not only that, but you have also given me the gift of your Holy Spirit to be with me always. And you have given me so much more as well – a life that is full of your blessings, which may bear fruit as I walk with you in the light. You deserve all the glory, honor, and praise. All I have to offer is myself. So help me, Father, to glorify you, honor you, and praise you with my life. Let your light be visible to everyone around. Thank you for everything that you have done, all you are doing, and everything you will do in advance. In the name of Jesus, amen.