The day had finally arrived!
After two years of teaching, falling, facing fears and learning to trust the moment had come to give our youngest daughter the gift we had been preparing her for.
A gift that two years ago, she had not been ready to receive. She was too weak. She didn’t have the balance, knowledge or the strength.
But now on this day, the story was different.
She was ready!
I do not know who was more excited as we watched her walk through the gate and into the corral where her gift awaited her.
Her excited squeal of delight eclipsed the soft whinny that greeted her.
She finally had what she had been desiring…what we had been preparing her for…what we had been delightedly waiting to give her.
Her own horse!
After two years of riding with me in the saddle to become accustomed to the movement of the horse she had learned the basic instructions of how to get a horse to stop, go and turn. From there she had moved on to riding alone in the saddle with me leading her in order to learn balance and begin to practice using the reins.
There were anxious moments as she learned how to stick to the saddle when the horse stopped quicker than what she expected. The first time she went solo in the saddle her eyes were wide with apprehension yet excitement as she looked down on me and picked up the reins and asked, “You have the lead rope in your hand, right mom?”
There were difficult moments as she struggled to pull herself up into the saddle, but with time and repetitive practice she gained the strength to do it on her own.
Each anxious moment, every difficult struggle, and the endless questions had led to this point.
A girl who was ready to tackle the adventure of caring for and riding her own horse!
And tackle that adventure she did!
She and Butterfly were inseparable. She spent many hours, days, months and years caring for her horse, while gaining more confidence, knowledge, experience and love for horses in general.
As a parent, I am not sure what I would have done that day, if after two years of preparing our daughter to receive the gift we wanted to give her, she had said to us, “Mom and Dad, this horse is too big. I mean I look like a grasshopper next to it. How can you even think of giving me such a gift? Your intention isn’t for my good, but for my harm. In fact, I think this gift shows that you want to destroy me. I am not accepting this gift, because I don’t trust you.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone responding to a gift like this, yet this is exactly what happened when the Israelites were at the border of the Promised Land. After spending two years in the wilderness, God was about to give them the gift He had spent two years preparing them for. Not only was this a gift, it was also the fulfillment of a promise that He had made to Abraham when He had said that He would return Abraham’s descendants to the Promised Land. It was the fulfillment of the promise that He had made to these people when He sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt (Exodus 6:8).
Yet, when they reached the banks of the Jordan River and looked at the gift that God was going to give them – the Promised Land – they did not respond with excitement. They did not move forward with confident trust in the One who had led them this far.
What was their response?
They grumbled in their tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so He brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2, 3; Deuteronomy 1:27).
How did this happen? How could they respond like this to God’s gift for them?
They had the wrong perspective…which led to a false belief…that kept them from seeing His goodness, believing His promises and learning the lessons that He was trying to teach them to prepare them for the gift He was going to give them.
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He did not bring them directly to the Promised Land. Instead His path that He led them on twisted this way and curved that way, bringing them into situations that were designed to transform the thought patterns of their minds and the belief patterns of their hearts. Through the times of hunger…of thirst…of danger…of wandering…God’s intention was to teach His people that they do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from His mouth. In other words, He wanted to teach His people how to live by faith, and not by sight…to learn to trust in the God who is always faithful to fulfill every promise…
Even when it seems impossible. Even when it seems difficult. Even when there are unanswered questions. Even when it hurts.
Because with Him, all things are possible and all things are working together for their good.
Yet, time after time, lesson after lesson, His people missed learning the lesson.
Their perspective was on their difficulties, and this became the lens through which they interpreted the circumstances into which God brought them. Instead of responding with confident trust in the One who was leading them, when they faced difficult circumstances or times of need they would grumble, complain and accuse God of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them. They were convinced that God’s plans for them were of evil and not good. These plans of God did not include a hope and a future. Instead, God’s plans were ones of destruction.
That was the very thinking that God was seeking to evict from their minds and hearts, so that they would learn to trust confidently, wait patiently and obey willingly.
From God’s perspective, His intentions towards them were good. We find them recorded in Deuteronomy 1:29 – 33, “Then I (Moses) said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.’”
Yet the people refused to listen to these words by Moses.
And they missed out on God’s best for them. Instead of receiving the gift and the promise, they refused to learn the lessons of the wilderness and turned their back in disbelief of the One who had gone before leading them, protecting them, sheltering them, providing for them and carrying them as a father carries a child.
As a result of their choice, it was back to the wilderness for another 40 years, until a new generation grew up…one that would trust God and receive the fulfillment of His promise to them.
I am often stunned when I read this story…to be so close to receiving the gift and the promise that God had spent two years preparing them for…
And then to miss it…
Even now I am at a loss for words.
When I reflect on this story, I look at my life, and ask God to grant me eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand and a heart to believe so that I will learn the lessons that He is seeking to teach me when His path for me leads me through the wilderness. I also ask Him to grant me the right perspective…to see these times of hunger and thirst and danger and wandering…for what they really are…
Times of refining, of teaching, of rebuking, of correcting and of instructing so that I will no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world which walks with eyes of sight, but instead be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I can walk by faith with confident trust in the One who directs my steps, and when the time comes be ready to receive the gifts that He has for me.
I really don’t want to miss God’s best for my life because I refuse to learn the lessons of faith that He wants to teach me.
Instead, I want to live life captivated by the One who loves me, delighting in the One who patiently teaches me the gems of His truth so that I can know Him, obey Him and love Him more each day as I confidently follow His direction for my steps and watch and see Him faithfully fulfill each and every promise that He makes.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7, 8