Faith, Nature

Migratory Heart

It’s a miracle that happens every spring in the north land. Birds, conspicuously absent on those cold and dismal winter days, like the apple blossoms that seem to pop out of nowhere, suddenly appear in the backyard.

The last few weeks have been sprinkled with sightings of new arrivals, from the familiar sparrows, gold finches and mallards to unexpected glimpses of Black Ducks and Canvas Backs.

ID Cedar WaxWing

Cedar Wax Wing  ∼  Idaho Backyard  (Photo by my Hubby)

The real miracle in the whole event is the predictability of the thing. Far from random, migratory creatures traverse the planet along ancient pathways, guided by instinct and biological imprinting that we have only begun to understand. These events are somehow basic nature and mystery at the same time.

I was reading from the Book of Numbers this morning. To our modern sensibilities, the details recorded in the book can easily make you question why it wasn’t named the ‘Book of Minutia’. So, as I suspect is true for many believers, it’s a book I had never read straight through.  This time I am committed to doing so.

Details, I am discovering, are incredibly revelatory and this morning’s read of Chapter 9 provided a poignant example. The passage includes a description of the Lord sending a cloud to hover over the Tabernacle, which was the place of worship located in the center of the Israelite encampment.

This camp, from the Tabernacle to the living quarters, was comprised entirely of tents and furnishings, designed and arranged according to the pattern God had shown Moses in their meeting on Mount Sinai. There wasn’t a ‘permanent’ structure in the whole of the camp. Every material possession of Israel was designed to be mobile. The entire encampment, literally millions strong, was mobile.

Now Israel was not altogether dissimilar to other cultures at that time. In fact, it is reasonable to say that nomadic or semi-nomadic cultures were still normative. What made Israel different was the cloud; i.e. God’s presence and guidance in their lives as a nation.

Nomadic tribes more or less ‘wandered’ in response to their natural surroundings. Their movement typically followed seasonal rains, herd migrations, or other survival related factors.  Nomadic tribes weren’t ‘migratory’ because the patterns of their movement over time were more random and reactionary.

Conversely, Israel’s movements were orchestrated and directed by God according to His plan for them. Israel did not truly “wander” as the typical verbiage suggests. They were more migratory, if you will. God supernaturally guided them, using a cloud that hovered by day and glowed at night.

As long as the cloud remained over the tabernacle, Israel was to remain encamped in that location. When the cloud moved, they packed up their belongings and followed the cloud (God) to the next location. The length of stay in any one location, which varied from days to years, was entirely in God’s control.

Talk about unsettling? How many of us could live with that kind of uncertainty? We want to know the plan. We want to be in control of the map. But God was teaching Israel complete dependence on Him and building the faith they needed to trust Him with their destinies.

What was expected of Israel? They had to be all in, all the time. Each time they set up camp, they had to do it to the same degree of excellence, the same dedication, the same effort – whether it turned out to be for a day or a year. They were expected to live each day fully invested in the life God had given them.

The story hit me right between the eyes. If being totally honest, I must confess that I am rarely all in. I have no trouble being all in when I have relative re-assurance that my circumstances are going to remain consistent enough for long enough to warrant investing myself.

I am all in when motivated to pursue a particular goal or dream. But when uncertainty looms on the horizon I pull back, hold back, reserve. I go into a sort of holding pattern; waiting it out until my life settles into a more predictable place. The problem is that moments lived half-in tend to add up into big chunks of life only partially invested in living.

I believe God wants me to have a heart willing to “migrate” in response to His leading. He desires for me to be able to echo Paul in saying that I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation (Philippians 4:12); and beyond being content—to be ALL IN.

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