I am starting a study on Gideon by the brilliant Priscilla Shirer. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, digging into the book of Judges. I mean, really, who gets super pumped to read about Israel and the judges of the Old Testament? Not me. God, however, made it very clear that this was the study for our mom’s group to delve into this fall. One day into it, I have a crystal clear answer as to why this is the study for me right now.
I just have one word: WOW.
Here’s the deal with Israel: God called them to Canaan, the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. He orchestrated miracle after miracle getting them to their destination. They made it, after a heck of a long time and some crazy awesome unforgettable works of God. Joshua followed God, leading Israel in conquests that landed them smack in the middle of paradise. There was no possible way that Israel did this on her own. In Deuteronomy 7, God commands his people not to make treaties, marry, or connect in any way with the former inhabitants of Canaan. God says to destroy all of the former altars and worship practices of the former people groups because they know this to be truth: “God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon (Deut. 7:10)”. But they didn’t remember what God did to get them to the promised land. Or possibly, they remembered but didn’t trust God to finish His work.
Their weaponry was not nearly as advanced as the nations that already inhabited Canaan. They were able to fight in the hill-country, but they felt that they could never go against those iron chariots on the plains of the flat lands. God had brought them to Canaan. That was awesome. Good enough, right. Why upset the balance that was already established, however delicately? Why not acknowledge that their “favor from God” might run out? Surely the miracles could only last so long. (They may have not been thinking this, but I certainly might have had these cognitions.) So they set up camp alongside the people that God had called them to obliterate because, let’s face it, they were afraid. They forgot what God had done, or at least they didn’t want to risk the chance of not receiving the next promised miracles only to perish after coming so far.
I get it. Oh my gosh, I get it. I have come so far. I wandered way too long after being in bondage for my own 400 years in my own Egypt. God brought me to my Canaan, my land flowing with milk and honey. He performed miracle after miracle in order to get me here, to the safety and abundance of this paradise. And He called me to demolish all of the strongholds. But I don’t know whether I forget His miracles, or if I don’t trust Him to continue performing the miraculous, or if I doubt His call, but I strive to maintain this tenuous balance here in my own paradise. I am just like the Israelites. I am terrified to lose what I have gained, so I set up negotiations with the enemies. I guess that I really do forget that the God who got me this far is the same God who calls me into deeper freedom.
The balance that I am striving to maintain is only an illusion, and He is not the author of that balance. I am healthier than I have ever been before. I have a wonderful husband, beautiful children, sweet friends, and an unfolding calling. I teeter, however, on what appears to me to be the precipice of disaster. If I venture too deeply into trauma work or begin to acknowledge the true brokenness and pain of my past, I might careen into a deep depression that could destroy everything and everyone that I love. If I relax too much on food and actually entirely trust my treatment team with my meal plan, my body might become unbearably uncomfortable and uninhabitable for me, and I might never be able to go out in public or bear the burden of my physicality for the rest of my life. If I really start writing and singing and putting myself out there, I might face rejection, or worse yet, hurting someone in my past who has the ability to knock me entirely off of my rocker and send me to some psych hospital, unable to care for the children whom are now entrusted to my care. But this is all based in fear, and it is not in line with God’s promise to me or with His calling.
The consequences for Israel’s compromise included divided and incomplete worship, because they were also worshipping the idols of the other nations, and also military and physical vulnerability because they remained a fragile nation. This was not God’s best for them. They were certainly better off than they were in Egypt, but they were nowhere near the place where God had called them. They stopped short because of fear and complacency. At this juncture, I have stopped short as well. My consequences are similar to Israel’s. My worship is divided and ambivalent because I have been unwilling to confront the very literal demons of my past. In my unwillingness to face the ritual abuse of a deeply spiritual nature, I harbor a deep distrust for all things Christian and spiritual. This is obviously problematic if God is calling me to Christian ministry. In addition, I am physically vulnerable because I am unwilling to trust God to carry me to fullness in healing from the eating disorder. You cannot maintain rigid rules around food and weight and fully recover from an eating disorder, even if your current weight falls within the acceptable range.
I have allowed myself to disregard the miracles that God gracefully and mercifully has performed to carry me to the promised land. They are very real. He dried the sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land. He carried me safely through multiple suicide attempts. He sent manna from heaven when the Israelites where starving in the wilderness. He planted life within my dead womb, dried up from years of anorexia, and He gave me two beautiful, healthy children. He has more and greater miracles to birth out of my life through His divine Spirit, and I will cooperate in surrendering the strongholds so that my “good enough” Canaan can become complete and total abundance.