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the paradox...

"And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night." Exodus 14:19-20

The Egyptians are hard in their pursuit of the Israelites as they stumble toward the Red Sea. God tells them to camp out and when the Israelites see the Egyptians coming they fear...they cry...they don't know what to do. Moses tells them to be still, God would fight for them. And He does, in quite possibly one of the most dramatic scenes that shows the infinite power and paradoxical nature of God. God doesn't draw a sword and He doesn't speak. He doesn't cause plagues, He doesn't cause a storm. The pillar of cloud simply moves from the front of the Israelites to the back of them, where the Egyptians are coming from. To those who were not chosen, the cloud became darkness. It became judgement and it became blindness to their eyes. To those who were chosen, it became a shield, it was light, it was hope, it was protection, it was love and sacrifice and ultimately salvation.

A while back, Joseph and I were parking at a local hardware store, and a woman got out of her run down van and approached us. We glanced over at her walking our way and we could see small children in the backseats playing with each other. As she came closer, you could see the effect drugs had had on her skin, on her hair, on her eyes, on her mind. She began in desperation, pleading with us that her children and her were hungry, that she had nothing to give them, and how she had no right to ask us to help her. Her words were such that you could tell the effect drugs were having on her system right then and there and that it hadn't been long since her last ingestion and soon, she would feel the need for more. I looked at her, at the desperation, at the true longing she had, not just for drugs, but for someone to care, deeply. I told her that I would be more than happy to run over to the fast food across the street and grab some stuff for her and her children and go from there. She hesitated, almost as if she knew that would be good, but then she pleaded that it would go bad soon, and she needed something more than that, something that would last longer. Knowing she wasn't in her right mind, we offered food across the street again and told her we would start there. She didn't say anything and just stared at us. So I decided to do it. Joseph got the items to return and then I got back in the truck and would meet him later. As he was walking off, she got back in her van. Not a few seconds later, another truck pulled up and as she was getting out, she stared deeply into my eyes and I stared back, as if I was pleading with her to take my offer. She walked over to the next person, made her same argument, all the while watching me with one eye and I her. The man relented from her constant nagging and gave her money. She stared at me the whole time she was getting back in her van and then she did what I hoped she wouldn't do...she drove away. She chose darkness...

My heart broke. Partly because she chose drug money over food for her children, partly because she was me. My eyes started tearing up and in an instant, my mind recalled all of the times that Jesus had offered me life, offered me stability, offered me joy, offered me real true love, and how I, just like the woman in the parking lot, stared at him...desperate for it, but ultimately chose what I needed for the moment...I chose the darkness. It was such a battle and is still such a battle if I am being honest. What we need now seems so much more inviting then something that is promised for our future. We run to what is comfortable, to what the world says we need. We run to whatever we know will get us through until the next day. Just like she had "no right to ask us to help", we, too, have no right to ask Jesus for help, but the beautiful story of grace is that it is just that...grace. God sent His Son, to die, for me, for you, for her. We all are broken, we all are scarred and wounded. Brothers and sisters, we are not that unique. We all have no right to ask for forgiveness, for help, but yet, He is there, watching us, desiring us to come to Him, to let His light shine upon us, to feel His embrace and feel His love that surpasses anything we could ever have hoped or dreamed or wanted. We have the choice to "Let light shine out of that it shines in our hearts..." 2 Corinthians 4:6. And if we choose the narrow road...He becomes our beautiful rescue story.

"Hear this, you foolish and senseless people. They have eyes, but they don't see. They have ears, but they don't hear...Your sins have withheld My bounty from you..." Jeremiah 5:21, 25b

"...we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life..." 2 Corinthians 3:16


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