If I’m honest about how I’m feeling right now, I’d tell you that I feel like I’m treading a familiar path. It feels like I’ve been here before, but how could that be? I’m working so hard to move forward. Over my shoulder, I can feel the breath of my enemy as he whispers his lies that I’m never going to actually get where I want so badly to go… that I’ll never set foot on the soil of my dreams.
Lately, I’ve made a commitment to read through the Old Testament – such an important but often misinterpreted and underrepresented part of God’s Word to us. However, against the backdrop of my aforementioned feelings, one doesn’t find much solace in the stories of the likes of Moses. How disappointed do you think Moses was with how his life turned out? Is it safe to say he peaked early?
Saved from slaughter, sent on a death-defying journey downstream and plucked from the river by people who should have probably left him for dead. Quite a start to a young life. Follow that with receiving a divine calling from God, challenging arguably the most powerful human on the planet in his day, and leading thousands of his brethren on a harrowing journey toward the promise land. The start of Moses’ life was the stuff of action novels… and then what?
He wandered, tired and weary, through a dessert with a group of ungrateful and imperfect people until it was ultimately revealed to him that it would not be him, but his “understudy” Joshua, who would get to take the ball into the end zone. Moses himself – a chosen man of God who physically interacted with our all-powerful Creator – never himself set foot on the soil of his dreams – the Promised Land of the Israelites.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this story of Moses as I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s All the Places to Go. I received the book as part of a Bible study that ended up being postponed, but it was clearly the Lord’s plan that I receive this book early and have it as I navigate this season of my life. The book is essentially built around God’s message to the church in Revelations 3, “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut… (Rev. 3:8)” Ortberg’s premise is that our God is not a God who sets out for our life a single “correct” direction, or a God who conducts a “right/wrong” test when putting choices in front of his children. Our God is a God of open doors, and each door has its own challenges and rewards behind it. Regardless, God is with us as we walk through through doors and experience what is on the other side.
Ortberg’s interpretation of this age-old struggle has been formative in how I view my relationship with God, and about how I approach discerning His will for my life. It has also challenged my previously-held notion that there is a “best yes” or a specific direction I am supposed to take, like his words below.
“I did not realize for many years that what I was looking for wasn’t so much ‘God’s will for my life.’ What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.” -John Ortberg, All the Places to Go
That one hit me deep.Have I truly been seeking “God’s Will” for my life? Or am I simply searching for an easy way out of a hard decision?
Toward the end of his book, Ortberg got me in the feels again. In expanding on his thoughts around open doors, he touches on two books titledThe Door in the Wall,one an award-winning children’s book and one by H.G. Wells. The books don’t matter as much as the concept – often, in our journey through life’s open doors, we discover an unexpected wall instead. If you think about it, walls and doors are only valuable because the other exists. A wall needs a door to seem important, just as a door lacks importance without a wall to guide one toward it.
That thought brings me back to Moses. Early in his life, Moses walked through God’s open door to deliver his people from the grips of Pharaoh – and how valiantly and obediently he did walk through that open door! That door opened right into the Red Sea. Walking through that door was unlike any door you or I could likely ever imagine. Upon crossing through that door, however, Moses ran head-long into a wall that cut through a desolate dessert wilderness. Moses followed along that wall for forty. LONG. years.
And then what, you ask?!
Well, he found a door. As it turns out, this door sat on the banks of the Jordan River. Through it, you could see the Promised Land that had been foretold by God. There was only one catch, though.God wasn’t going to open this door for Moses. This was a door for his successor, Joshua. Moses spent the last years of his life not as a God-ordained hero galloping through open doors in glory; he spent the last part of his life as a wanderer, feeling his way along the wall between the doors of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. He finally found the door, and he essentially dies at its threshold. Not an inspiring story at face value…
And yet, we can rejoice.We can rejoice because of the simple fact that open doors exist in our life, thanks to God. He opens doors and is just as joyful as we are when he sees us skip through them and take hold of what he intends for us on the other side. We can be thankful for open doors, for it says in His Word that “what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.” (Rev. 3:7). Open doors can only be opened by God; they are a gift to us in this lifetime, even if those gifts don’t always make sense at face value. Just ask Moses.
In closing, pause for a moment and consider what that same door meant in the life of Joshua, who walked with Moses along the wall.The door that Moses discovered at the Jordan was opened by God for Moses’ successor, Joshua. Through that door, the young prophet delivered God’s chosen people into the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. On the other side of that open door, the walls of Jericho would fall, and great kings would be defeated for the glory of God. Even though Moses never got to walk through it, this was a door worth finding. I can’t imagine that Moses wouldn’t back me up on that.
Therefore, let us be encouraged. For when we find ourselves along the wall we can smile and journey forth knowing that another door is bound to be ahead, and that God is walking with us in joyful anticipation of what He has placed just down the path.
In Him, HB