“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.” — Exodus 13:17-18 (NLT)
Sometimes I feel like the journey that God has me on parallels many parts of Israel’s journey through the wilderness. I sit back and I say to myself, “Man I wish I had a pillar to follow, because that would be so much easier that just sitting here and waiting.” If you don’t know me, I am not exactly a patient person, so the waiting thing is pretty tough. When Alicia and I were visting and flying to churches I would get anxious on the tarmac as we approached the gate. I definitely don’t do well waiting in tight, poorly ventilated areas, but I am quickly convicted by my lack of appreciation for the miracle of human flight (If you didn’t get that reference click here).
About a year ago we felt God prompting us to leave Pennsylvania for numerous reasons. The problem is that leaving was not going to be an easy matter. We had bought a house in November 2011, we had just hit our one year anniversary at the church, and I had no idea what our next step was. The fact that we loved our youth and our youth leaders so much made it even harder to leave! Again, at least the Israelites knew they were heading to the promised land where there was everything in abundance. I was prepared to work as a shelf stocker at Walmart, but we ended up moving in with my parents and me working as an office assistant at my dad’s business (not the ideal scenario for a young youth pastor and his wife, but God has a way of uniquely meeting our needs!).
I never would have imagined that it would be nine months before I was able to get back into full time ministry. However, just like the Israelites, God knew just the right path for my wife and I to take. The fact is, God didn’t take the Israelites on the quickest path to the promised land. He could have, but he had a path that was better and would protect the Israelites. God also knew that if the Israelites took the shortest route, they would never achieve the long term dream that God had for His people.
Most people would say that the ideal situation is to leave a church and know exactly where you’re going, but we NEEDED those nine months. People leave churches for all sorts of reasons, but Alicia and I needed time to heal, grow as a couple, and refocus for the ministry God had called us to. There were plenty of awesome churches that we interviewed with in that time, but God knew that we needed to take the long path. Honestly, if we had left and gone straight to another church we would never be able to achieve all that God wanted us to achieve. We could have gone and found a good job somewhere, but God was saving the right job for us.
The roundabout way has had it’s struggles, but it was the path that God used to grow us and bring us to Hopevale Church! I am so blessed to be a part of the team here. Looking back, nine months was not as long as it seemed in the moment. In that time we went from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Michigan! The road you are on right now may not make a whole lot of sense right now. Some of you may be starting a job, leaving a job, waiting for a job, or pressing steadily on but always trust that while the road may be long, God always knows the destination and has dreams for you that you can’t even begin to imagine.