I’m a slave to routine. There’s really no way of escaping that reality for something else in my life. I have a schedule and I adhere to it pretty strictly and deviation from that routine throws me off not just mentally but physically. This creates a whole lot of interesting stress in my life because I live and die by the clock and the calendar. I’m lost without my phone because it has my entire day outlined. I know when I have to go to bed and when I have to get up, when to take my pills and when to be in class. I have my syllabi loaded into a really handy iPhone app that tells me everything is due this semester. It helps me feel really secure that I have that nailed down.
It’s also really, really boring.
I wonder if my control is only an illusion.
In the book of Exodus the Hebrew people are driven by routine. In Egypt they were treated as slaves because they weren’t Egyptian and therefore weren’t the deity, Pharaoh’s, people. They were forced to make bricks and work really hard for the benefit of someone else, to the point where they cried out and YHWH heard them. He broke them out of that routine after showing Pharaoh who the real God is. You would think that the people would be grateful. Being loosed from bondage under a tyrannical and dehumanizing system should elicit praise from those set free and for a while it does.
But that was not the end of routine for them.
The other day I was driving down the road from my college which is, oddly enough, a gravel road about two miles south of anything resembling a suburban sprawl. I don’t mind it most of the time because my car is beat up anyway so soiling it further with dust or mud is not really a huge concern to me but that day was a little different. I didn’t get very far away from the driveway of the college when, in a split second, I saw a white and blue flash like a strobe light and then flames in a field on the left side of the road. I’ve driven past that farm a million times and it was always calm and tranquil like you would expect a small grazing field for horses would be. But that calm was disrupted by a burst of fire.
I’ll be truthful and tell you I know absolutely nothing about country living. I am a city guy to the bone. But I know it is not uncommon for farmers to burn parts of their field off for various reasons. I don’t know what those reasons are but I know they exist. So, since I hadn’t cognitively thought about what had just happened I drove by and did nothing. But when I replayed the ordeal in my mind I realized a power line over the field had snapped and swept through the dry grass at the base of the poles they were attached to. Those live wires then ignited the brush and grass that it touched and the fire proceeded to spread. That calm field started to smoke. I called 911 and reported the fire and then I realized something
For the first time ever I had just witnessed the start of a grass fire.
After surviving the escape from Egypt between two walls of water that was a sea before YHWH parted it and watching the water take out the pursuing Egyptians when he stopped holding up those walls of probably white and foaming sea, the Hebrew people were free to seek the land that was promised to their fathers. They should have been excited and elated that they were finally free. Right?
If you’ve read the Exodus account and on and on through the rest of the Hebrew Bible you know that just isn’t the case. In the Exodus they fall into a perpetual routine of grumbling and whining on and on about their living conditions. God gives them food every day and gives them water out of a rock. There’s that old cliche that you can’t get blood from a stone. That may be true but their elohim, my God, gave them water out a stone. They’re both liquid coming from a solid so it’s all still pretty amazing to me.
After a period of time the Hebrew people fall back into their routine of complaining and dissatisfaction with YHWH and they ask for a king. We have record after record of good kings and bad kings and Israel falls into a routine of building up and then later tearing down the altars to the idols they would continually fall back to until God just becomes so fed up with their unfaithfulness he disperses them. All because they failed to see one crucial thing.
God provided for them.
They wanted more. The control had to be theirs.
When I think about what was going on in the weeks prior to seeing something as crazy as a power line snapping and starting a small fire in a field, I can remember thinking how mundane my life was. Groaning and complaining that I was so tired of routine and college and schedules and how I wish I could quit my job and just focus on school and have fun like the rest of my friends. I realize without the point I’m getting at that being lazy and not working would drive me insane. I don’t really have more than two settings built into me: Stop and Go. So to think that I would really be content if I could go to school without a job is really just me lying to myself.
But then again I wonder if that is the point.
Just like the Israelites, I was discontent with my surroundings, with the people around me and with my life situation. He had already pulled me out of the bondage and slavery that I had to sin and he has continued to provide for me. I have been overwhelmed with what he has done in my life even just recently and to prove to me that it’s not really cliche to say that I am truly blessed. I realize that I am discontent with what my Father has provided for me and the knowledge of that is just so overwhelming that I’ve deleted several attempts at describing it in this paragraph and have given up that endeavor completely. Those sparks flying off that live cable causing combustion and ignition in the grass below them was like a wake up call and I’ve been reeling from it ever since. God has provided and will provide, sustain and encourage. He will rebuke and he will raise up.
He broke my focus from the routine and made me remember that.
If you translate my name in Hebrew it means “YHWH will raise up”.
And he will. More than you can even comprehend.