Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Devotional: Moving Forward

      Moving Forward Toward The Light

Photo by Bill Ross

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”

                                         Exodus 14:15 (KJV)

Today's scripture is taken from the book of Exodus and comes from the time the Israelites had left Egypt, led by Moses, and were now camped in the desert frightened and afraid. They knew that Pharaoh's army was coming after them and feeling lost and alone cried out to God to help them and then began whining to Moses, blaming him for bringing them there. Just think of it! They had escaped bondage and slavery and yet were now feeling stuck and fearful. They simply couldn't find the courage to move. Moses kept reassuring them to not be afraid. He told them that they would see the wonderful way that the Lord would rescue them and fight for them. Here is how The Living Bible translates these scriptures from Exodus 14:13-14.

"But Moses told the people, Don't be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch, and you will see the wonderful way the Lord will rescue you today. The Egyptians you are looking at-you will never see them again. The Lord will fight for you, and you won't need to lift a finger!"

Moses, in essence, was telling the people to just stand still. Don't move and watch was God will do. But, God, however, had a different plan. And standing still and watching was not what he wanted. He called for movement forward! And, He even called on the people to stop praying. Stop praying and get moving! Here is how The Living Bible translates these verses from Exodus 14: 15-16

"Then the Lord said to Moses, Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march! Use your rod -hold it out over the water, and the sea will open up a path before you, and all the people of Israel shall walk through on dry ground!"

You know, sometimes in life we get stuck. We find ourselves in places in our lives where forward movement seems impossible. We cry out to God to change our situation or to change us in some way and yet we feel that nothing is happening. Nothing is changing. Like the Israelites in the desert, we live in fear and can simply not see a way to move forward. 

There can be many types of "desert" situations in our lives. Six years ago, I lived through the desert of retirement. After many years of looking forward to retiring and being able to call my time my own, I found myself feeling lost and unsure of who I was now. After years of being a "classroom teacher" and then an "AIG Specialist" I felt like I suddenly had no title, no career identity. While I enjoyed many aspects of more freedom there was still a sense of being a bit "lost" and wondering what to do with myself that "counted" and felt like I was still productive and had something to give. Over time, I felt the same call from God that the Israelites experienced. I had prayed for God to show me the paths I should take and I began to sense that God wanted me to get moving and try things that were new to my life and yet would still use the skills I had acquired over my many years of teaching. Doors opened up which I had not seen before and I was able to use my teaching skills as a tutor to a little girl who needs help with reading, math and writing. I was offered the position as handbell director at my church using the music training I have received in college and over many years as a musician. I was called to continue blogging and sharing the joys of devotions, creative endeavors, home decor and my interest with fashion. Like the Israelites, I was questioned by God, "Wherefore criest thou unto me.....go forward."

Now I realize that going forward is not an easy task. And some deserts in our lives are more challenging than others. So, I don't mean to minimize the many, many things that can happen in our lives to cause us to be "stuck" so to speak in a desert. Adjustment to retirement is not the same as illnesses, deaths, sudden job loss, divorce, wars, the list goes on and on. 

Recently, I have been experiencing another type of desert in my own life. The death of my oldest sister. The grief over this loss has been palpable. I have spent many hours crying and feeling lost. Grief has a way of ebbing and flowing and sometimes I don't feel it coming on and then, without warning, a memory comes or music plays or a picture reminds me and, once again, I am overwhelmed with the feelings of loss once more. Just as when I retired, I wonder who I am now without the earthly relationship I shared with my oldest sister. She was the "mother figure" of the family after our Mom passed away almost 28 years ago. The one I talked to on a weekly basis and shared my life with; the ups and downs. I used to get a little peeved at always being called "the baby of the family" by her. But, now that she is gone, I miss that term. I was her medical power of attorney and the last months of her life were filled with me working with my other sisters to make decisions for her care. Just as when I was teaching, I had "titles" and ways to define myself in the relationship I had with her and the rest of my family. Now she has passed and I am, once again, in a desert of figuring out who I am. How do I now define myself within our family? Relationships have shifted and family dynamics have changed. 

I have prayed and cried out to God many times over these last months of being in this desert of loss and grief. Wanting reassurance that Star is with Him, questioning why and how things happened in her last months of life here on Earth, worrying over the decisions I made, wondering how our family will adjust to this loss and how my relationships with my other sisters will change and grow. 

This past weekend, I began to sense that God was speaking to me using the same words that He gave to the Israelites. I sensed Him telling me to "move forward." When those words descended on me, it gave me a great feeling of peace. And I knew that the time has come for me to look forward and to move towards the path that God is opening up on the sea for me. To move toward the "light" and not stay in the darkness of grief. Just as the Israelites moved forward through the path that God opened up in the waters, so must I.

A dear friend recently spoke to me of something she had learned about grief. She said there was a term used in grief counseling called "emergence" from grief and that in grief one doesn't leave it behind but emerges from it gradually. I became really interested in the word "emerge" and looked up several definitions of the term. One such definition was, "to move out of or away from something and to come into view." How striking is that definition of emerging in terms of grief? Once again, movement is involved! I also love the "coming into view" aspect. God has shown me, or brought me into view, in wonderful ways that I am not sharing here, that my sister is with Him and is safe in His arms. 

I also looked up the term "emergence" and its synonyms and was touched with one example of emergence as "coming into the light." 
With my choice of "light" as my word of the year, this was an especially poignant find and reassured me, once again, that God was separating the sea of grief in the desert that I have been in and that I was slowly moving forward on this new path toward the light that God gives to each of us.

Friends, all of us experience deserts in our lives. Sometimes we are in multiple deserts at one time! But, God is always faithful in our lives to show us a way forward. A way to emerge, even if the emergence is slow and gradual, toward the light, toward the path forward, that He has for us. And just know that the path forward will be good, even if it seems scary. Because God is good. All the time.

This has been a long devotional. I pray that it blesses your life.
Blessings and Peace Until Next Time,


Denice Kopf said...

A very moving devotional Debbie. Your words resonante with my condition since retiring during Covid.

Iris said...

Very well said Debbie. I've sorta felt the same way in retirement and I'm guessing many people do. I do have 'projects' but some are now beyond my physical abilities. Thanks for sharing - your words hit home.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing . I can relate to many things you expressed ! KimW

Anonymous said...

I related so much to everything you said, Debbie. I am retired from teaching and nursing, and lost my dear twin sister last winter after a serious and debilitating illness. I, too, have a volunteer position at my church. Your words mean so much to me--especially now in a dreary winter season. Thank you. Kara

Sharon said...

What a beautiful devotional post, Debbie! Your words really resonated with me. With your references about emerging as moving toward the light, I started to think about the natural world and how plants emerge from the dark soil toward the light. Thank you for writing about the connection of emergence to light. It has deepened my understanding.

Linda said...

So very true, Debbie.
I can identify with the words you shared today.
I'm reading through the Bible chronollogically this year.
I just got to Joseph and the Pharoah.
I will be reading about Moses in the coming weeks.
Yes, in 2020 during COVID,
I would roll out of bed in the morning asking God,
"How can we go on like this."
I felt stuck in a place I didn't want to be.
My father was in personal care and visitation was restricted.
He passed February 18, 2021.
The restrictions of COVID gave extra layers
to the grief process for me.
I had regrets and frustrations and questioned
myself and told myself what I could have...
should have done diffferently.
Loss of identity. Yes, I experienced that as well.
Grief has come in waves these last almost 2 years.
Grief still rolls in with a song, a word, or an object
that reminds me of my father.
Thanks to God and his provisions of encouragement,
I have been gradually moving forward.
God has brought to me the gift of the words
Joy/Rejoice for my word for this year, 2023.
Thank you for sharing your words in this devotional.
Your words are very similar to my thoughts,
when I reflect on these last few years.
May God continue to provide comfort and peace,
as you find ways to celebrate the life you shared with your sister.
With appreciation,
Linda Ziegler

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Denice. Covid was a hard time to retire and adjust with everything else going on.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Iris. I think that everyone who has retired and suffered a loss has experienced a lot of the same feelings and emotions. Take care.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Kim. Hope you are doing well.

Debbie Styles Life said...

We have a lot in common, Kara. I'm so glad my words had meaning for you and I'm very sorry that you lost your twin sister. I know that must be devastating. May peace be with you.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thanks so much, Sharon! I think there are so many connections that can be made to emergence into light. Thank you for helping me to learn about emergence!

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Linda. I know it must have so sad to not be able to be with your father as much as you wanted due to Covid restrictions. So many families went through that and it was/is heartbreaking. I think so many of us have similar reactions when we retire. It is a true adjustment. Joy/Rejoice are wonderful words of the year and surely point to your moving forward which is a blessing. Take care.