Only Temporary

 

Todd, age 4, playing in the snow outside our basement home, winter 1980-81

I have learned to get along happily whether I have much or little. – Philippians 4:11 NLT

Thirty-nine years ago, we moved into an unfinished basement fifteen miles from town, hoping to save rent money as we built our house ourselves. I was a stay-at-home mom, so money was scarce with just my husband’s income—and even that was sometimes only a hundred dollars a week.

The children were still toddlers—Todd was four, and Jaime was 11 months—and boxes, clothes and toys cluttered every square foot as I struggled to make that concrete cubicle a home. The furnace, on loan from my husband’s boss until we could afford a new one (which ended up being 25 years later), needed repair. It was already mid-November, and winter was closing in fast. A constant fire in the woodstove did little to warm up the concrete surrounding us. Insulating the place was still on our to-do list. I wore long underwear, a toboggan hat and layers of clothing indoors.

The plumbing was unfinished, so we hooked up a garden hose to the water tank and fed it through the hole in the wall above the tub meant for the fixtures. Lugging pots of hot water from the kitchen, I’d flooded the floor twice getting the kids’ bath ready.

My back ached from sleeping on an old, lump sofa bed mattress so thin I could feel the support bars. Our comfortable queen-size bed was still in the wagon shed, where we temporarily stored items while we unpacked and organized.

Three days or disorganization, interruptions and things gone wrong left perfectionist me struggling with my emotions. Why can’t I have nice things, the easy way, like everyone else? I wondered. Why am I always a “have not” and never a “have”?

Although I tried not to complain (too much), my husband knew I was struggling and tried to cheer me up. “It’s only temporary,” he’d say when my impatience oozed through the growing cracks in my composure.

“Yeah, right,” I’d answer.

Then an early snowstorm dumped six inches on the countryside overnight. Every two hours I bundled up even more and shoveled swirling drifts away from the only door. Flinging heavy, wet snow over my shoulder, I finally gave in to self-pity.

“Temporary, temporary!” I fumed. “Is everything temporary?”

The answer came immediately. Even if you had everything exactly the way you wanted, it would still be temporary.

I couldn’t argue with that.

Lord, help me to remember that my earthly condition, whether rich, poor, or in-between, is only temporary. Remind me daily what’s really important. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Timothy 6:6–8.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 by Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Our house now (summer 2019)

In Midian

Mount Nebo
Photo by Berhold Werner (Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. – Proverbs 19:21(RSV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

Moses—now there was a man who had it all—prosperity, power, prestige. But this prince of Egypt, thanks to his impulsive nature and nasty temper, became a refugee, fleeing for his life in disgrace and fear. Instead of a palace, the wilderness. No longer the proud prince, but a lowly shepherd. Talk about culture shock.

I wonder, as he tended sheep in the godforsaken desert and on the lonely mountainsides of Midian, did he think he was all washed up? A has-been? That the best part of his life was over? How long did it take him to stop missing the splendor, the hype? Did he feel as though he lost his purpose?

Then, after 40 years, Mission Impossible: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:9–10 NIV).

Oh, right. Like that was going to happen. Moses knew Pharaoh. But he didn’t know God. So he hedged. He made more excuses than a kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.

But man cannot argue with God. Well, you can, but you can’t win. For every excuse once-mighty Moses gave, God had an answer.

So Moses spent the next 40 years leading a stubborn, rebellious, cantankerous nation over one million strong through both a physical wilderness and a spiritual one. It was for this that Moses was enshrined in the famous “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11). He died a great leader with a fame that endures to this day, a fame he never could have achieved as a prince of Egypt. (Other than King Tut or Cleopatra, do you know the name of even one Egyptian royal?)

But I wonder, as he dealt with the constant complaining, the mercurial temperament of a nation whose loyalty and emotions were as fickle as an ambivalent teenager’s, as he quelled rebellion after rebellion, as he wore himself out settling their petty disputes—did he long for the quiet hillsides of Midian, tending to a flock that was undemanding, whose major flaw wasn’t stubbornness but stupidity?

Back in his heyday Moses didn’t want to rule Egypt; he wanted to rescue the Israelites. Right idea, wrong time. Moses needed to spend some time in Midian, in the wilderness classroom, to learn patience and humility. When God saw Moses was ready, He called him to his destiny, his purpose.

Sometimes we find ourselves in Midian, wondering if we’re all washed up, if somehow we missed God’s purpose for us. Or we wonder if we’re being punished. Or perfected. Oh, Lord, I’ll never be perfect! So I wonder if I’ll spend the rest of my life stuck in Midian, in a wilderness where the only attention I get is from needy sheep.

But I can’t handle the pressures Moses had when he traded his sheep for people. But then, everything that happened in Moses’ life had a purpose: to prepare him for the job God had planned for him all along. Moses wasn’t perfect when God called him—or afterwards. He blundered and thundered and made both the Almghty and the Israelites mad.

But he learned in lean times to lean on God. The leaner the time, the harder he leaned. And he learned that where God sends, He also enables and provides.

God hasn’t changed.

If you find yourself in Midian, enjoy the peace and quiet, the absence of strife and chaos. Work with God as He molds you for the job ahead. Then you might wish you were back in Midian.

But, then, it could be your job is Midian.

In that case, take to heart the words of another man who, centuries after Moses, found himself in his own Midian, a jail cell: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11 RSV).

Dear God, if I spend the rest of my life in Midian, help me to be content. Help me to know that You will fulfill Your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 2:1–3:10

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.