Untamed

“Untamed,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

Sometimes, I am as stubborn as a stone.  I get comfy where I am, and like Tolkien’s Bilbo, I have no interest in “adventures.”

My husband will tell you that I am most certainly a creature of habit.  I like my well-worn paths, my familiar haunts.  I never grow weary of them.

You can be sure that once I have picked a favorite route to and from work, that my drive will not vary.  For interest, I depend upon the subtle shifts of the unfailing four seasons, but always delight in the beauty of the familiar.

In fact, I heartily agree with Bilbo and echo with certainty, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!  I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

Gandalf, of course, disagreed, “…I will go so far as to send you on this adventure…very good for you–”

And so it goes…

Like Bilbo, I also find myself smack in the middle of those “good for you” adventures in spite of all of my most reasonable intentions. Time and time again,  I am nudged out the door, and this once settled stone starts a’ rollin’.

God definitely has a way of rearranging my best plans.  Or as C.S. Lewis’ character, Mr. Tumnus, tells Lucy Pevensie, Aslan “isn’t tame.”

Without a doubt, I cannot play it safe with Abba.  He isn’t tame.

Like the powerful surf, He sweeps into my life, and everything starts tumbling.  I cling to my safe itinerary, but my feet are swept out from under me.  Abba’s omnipotent wave carries me despite my resistance.

The wave rolls me right out of my comfort zone. I lose my sense of direction. Water envelops me.  My life is turned upside down… sand swirls overhead, and the sky seems to drop underfoot.   At such times, I certainly feel as though I am going under.

As a result, I kick and scream; I flail my arms about.  I sputter and swallow salt water… That is, until I eventually call for mercy…and allow the wave carry me.

And suddenly, I am tossed ashore.

When I finally have a look about,  I realize that I’ve been relocated; my lifescape has been rearranged.

Such was the case in 1991.  My husband and I had just moved to a beautiful art community.  I had secured a superb position–teaching writing.  I looked forward to that fresh challenge.

In addition, I not only loved the area but I adored its people. Thus, we found a small piece of property and hoped to build our forever home.

Unexpectedly, just three months after our arrival, the waves of change rushed in and turned our world upside down.  We had our plans; but Abba said otherwise.

Although my husband’s new employer had initially seemed so promising, the organization’s leadership began to crumble.

Yet, because I hate change, I encouraged my husband to doggedly hang on, to try to make the best of the situation.

It seemed right to persevere because he had only just accepted his place a few months prior.  It wasn’t sensible to begin sending out resumes once more.

Then, the waves reached tidal proportions.

Untamed, yes.

Events churned and spiraled out of our control.  It soon became clear that there would be no place to stay.  Everything had fallen apart despite my wishes and our best efforts.

Obviously, we had no choice but to follow Abba on a new adventure.

And Abba took us places we had never dreamed.  My husband entered graduate school in England, and I accepted a teaching position close by.

Uh, huh. That’s right. I taught writing in Shakespeare’s country.  Truly, a grand adventure!

Nevertheless, in true hobbit fashion,  I first objected to the move.

Now, before you write me off for my lack of adventurous spirit, allow me to note that  most of us don’t like “adventures” that we haven’t arranged for ourselves.  People do not like changes implemented by an external source.

Even if we enjoy an adventure, we nevertheless wish to control our itinerary.

Social scientists tell us that most people don’t like “change” even if the alteration is beneficial.  I definitely think the reason many of us hate change is because it disorients us; we prefer to pursue our own plans even if those are less than ideal.

We thus proclaim with poet William Ernest Henley “I am the master of my fate:/ I am the captain of my soul.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky significantly wrote in his powerful novella, Notes from the Underground, “The point, gentlemen is this; doesn’t there, in fact, exist something that is dearer to almost every man than his very best interest… (to) be able to live our own lives at our own sweet will.”

So I cry, “Give me an adventure of my own choosing…”

Yup… sometimes, my plans and prayers are a stubborn mess.  Abba, in His grace and mercy, has a lot of rearranging to do.  Thus, with my best in mind, the Sovereign God crashes into my time and space.

And when Abba’s untamed wave rolls in, life initially isn’t pretty.   Moses certainly could attest to that.

Like most of us, Moses had his own idea about how his life should play out.  He evidently recognized his unique position as Pharoah’s adopted grandson and passionately wished to make a difference in the lives of his own people, the Hebrews.   All good, so far.

I suspect that Moses had given the plight of his people some thought.  He may have even dreamed of heroically becoming their political savior.  And on one particular day, it seemed his ideal opportunity arrived.

Exodus 2 recounts that while investigating the Israeli situation, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave.  Moses surveyed the area, and decided that “the coast was clear.”  Acting swiftly and decisively,  Moses struck down the Egyptian.

But of course, people have a way of talking.  Word got back to Pharoah. Moses had crossed the line.  When Pharoah tried to kill Moses, Moses fled.

And that is why the one time prince of Egypt accepted a position for which he was clearly over-qualified; he became a shepherd.

Yet, despite the fact that Moses no longer lived in Pharoah’s court, he did his best to carve out a new, albeit unglamorous, life.

I imagine that in the desert he found a kind of peace and safety.  He must have found happiness in the comfort of a home–or should I say, tent–of his own. He married, and settled into nomadic life.

He put Egypt behind him.

Or so it seemed until the day he encountered that burning bush.

Yes, Abba swept into Moses’ life and rearranged everything.  And even though the known Pharoah had died, Moses feared the past would nevertheless haunt him; after all, the new king might recognize Moses.

Moses objected, “‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'” (Exodus 2:11).

The Exodus adventure was certainly not his idea of a good time… He offered every excuse he could think of:  what if they ask who sent me? what if they don’t believe me? what if Pharoah will not listen?  what about my poor oratory skills? 

He must have thought, “There has to be a way out of this adventure!”

At least, you can be sure that had I been in Moses’ position, I would have borrowed Bilbo’s words, “Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. ”

I can’t blame Moses for balking. A visit to Pharoah’s court would be dangerous for Moses, a wanted man.   Even so, Abba asked Moses to confront Pharoah and to deliver an offensive message, “Let my people go.”

Of course, Pharoah summarily dismissed the request. But he did more than that. In proud defiance, he also ordered decreased resources and increased workloads for his Hebrew slaves.

The situation seemed hopeless, and Moses questioned, “O LORD, why has Thou brought harm to this people?  Why didst Thou ever send me?”

Adventures are never easy.  Abba, after all,  isn’t tame.

Yet, as Moses followed God’s lead,  life moved from mundane to miraculous.

The Nile’s waters turned to blood; frogs swarmed the land; gnats plagued the Egyptians and insects filled all of Egypt.  Egyptian cattle died and Egyptians themselves suffered with boils.

Hail destroyed crops, and locusts ate what remained.  Darkness covered the nation for three days and then, its first-born children died.

The Red Sea parted.

Manna and water flourished in the desert.

And Moses encountered God in a deeply personal way.  Scripture actually tells us that when Moses returned from meeting with God on Mt. Sinai,  Moses’ face reflected Abba’s glory, (Exodus 34:29).

That’s right. Moses, the fugitive, spoke with God face-to-face. Moses, the excuse maker, received the ten commandments. Moses, the reluctant, authored the first five books of the Bible.

In grace and mercy, God swept into Moses’ world and lifted Moses out of the ordinary.  Moses became more than any of his Nomad friends could have ever imagined. Abba’s plan exceeded Moses’ wildest dreams.

And our Sovereign God has more for you and me as well.

True,  God’s purposes often move us out of our comfort zones.  He sets our feet on adventurous roads despite our objections.

All powerful and untamed, He rearranges our landscape.  His plans supersede ours.

Yet, despite the fact that you and I may find ourselves on paths we would not personally choose, Abba walks with us.  He gently guides His children.

The same God who allows the storm also commands, “Peace be still.”

In fact, we can be sure that Abba always intervenes at just the right time.  And He always knows precisely where He is leading us.

He isn’t tame, but we can surely trust Him.

We can say with the apostle Paul, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful,” (Hebrews 10:23).

For this reason, then, when the wave disturbs the stone, when the surf moves the reluctant rock, we can be confident that all is part of God’s plan.

The God of the Universe invades our daily world to carry us to something profoundly better.

And when we loudly protest or stubbornly cling to our plans, I think the omniscient Abba must simply smile.  He, after all, sees the entirety of our lives.

He knows that adventures are good for us.

Indeed, He’s designed you and me for so much more than a sojourn with sheep in the desert. For this reason, He orchestrates events in order to replace our mundane with His miraculous.

Yes, God has a wonderful adventure planned for you and me. It’s actually grand beyond “all that we could ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).

Sometimes, however,  Abba must nudge a stubborn stone to get the adventure rolling.

“The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD…The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps,” ~Proverbs 16:1, 9.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand,” ~Isaiah 40:10