• Anna Brooksby

BLOG: (April 4-10) Exodus 14-17, "Walking Upon Dry Land"

But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. (Exodus 14:29)

I am painting with my girls today. They are eager to help, and they want to learn. They are doing their best, and it is good enough. Somewhere along the line I learned that perfection is not required, or helpful, in raising children. Parenthood is messy. Life is messy. It’s supposed to be that way. I also learned early on that so much of life is outside of my control. I have vivid memories of lying awake at night after a close call with one of my children (and all children and parents have those close calls), reliving the experience, worrying and praying and expressing my gratitude that the Lord was with my child when I could not be. I have seven children, and even if I wanted to wrap them in bubble wrap and watch them like a hawk every minute of every day, I couldn't. And it wouldn't be healthy for them if I did. You can't fly without the possibility of falling. You can't succeed if there isn't a chance that you could fail. That's just how life works. But sometimes we get stuck, thinking we want safety or ease more than we want growth. Growth is messy and hard and often painful. It requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is frightening. It can be scary to move forward without our safety net. But the beautiful thing is we do have a safety net. We have the constant opportunity to access the help of a Father in Heaven who loves us and can guide us to what is best for us, who sees every situation perfectly, and who knows the ending of every story. He is ready and willing to help us. But we have to ask. And we have to believe that help will come. Faith like that is not automatic. It takes practice to learn to seek the Lord early and often, and when we are out of practice - when we have spent too long trusting in other things or people or ourselves - it can take a while to learn to fully trust Him again.

The Israelites had just spent four generations in bondage. They had kept their faith all that time, but they had come to depend on Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their food and shelter - they were used to captivity. Independence was new and scary for them, and they weren’t sure they liked it. Sure, they didn’t have to slave all day for Pharaoh…but now, they could starve! Or die of thirst! Or be killed by the Egyptians in the wilderness, since they insisted on running away instead of staying safely in slavery! It seems so counterintuitive that they could be wishing they were still in slavery…but haven’t we all done this? Haven’t we all left a livable but less than ideal situation only to find ourselves deep in discomfort and longing to go back?

Years ago, my husband left a stable but dead-end job to start his own business as an arborist. We had prayed about this and felt really good about it, it seemed like the right time, and so he (we) took a leap of faith and started over. And things were good for a little while, but then they got harder. And harder. And pretty soon, we were sounding a lot like the Israelites, wishing for that regular paycheck again, even though it wasn’t going to be sufficient for our large family’s needs for much longer, even though we knew we were on the right path. Leaps of faith require lots of trust and often lots of work and waiting before they bear fruit. This leap of faith for our family ultimately resulted in relocating to another area, lots of growth (for all of us), and many blessings we couldn’t foresee. But at the time, all we could see was our diminishing bank account. I remember going to the grocery store with our small cash budget and doing my very best to stretch it far enough to feed my family, all the while repeating the words of Job in my mind: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” It was HARD. And it was a long time before things got better. But they did get better. And even through the hard parts, the Lord was there. We saw Him in the three or four Secret Santas who all visited us on the same night that Christmas. We saw Him in my beautiful sister-in-law who called me every week and sang out “I’m going to Costco! What can I get for you?” and then never let me pay her back. We saw Him in my healthy pregnancy and the beautiful, healthy baby girl who was born 9 months after her daddy quit his steady job…who was nourished in utero by food storage, prayer, and the generosity of others who love us. We saw Him in my beautiful mother who brought fresh vegetables over every time she went to the market, and who watched our kids so we could go to the temple and have some spiritual nourishment. We saw Him in the kindness of so many who reached out to help us when, despite our best efforts, we simply couldn’t do it on our own. I learned a lot of lessons during those years, not the least of which was the lesson that even when things don’t work out how I thought they would, the Lord is still with me.

I love the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and wandering in the wilderness because I know a little bit about how they felt. Like me, they had to learn how to trust God in a whole new way. And that was hard, and took a long time, and lots of practice. He let them take all the time they needed. He parted the Red Sea and let them walk through on dry ground. He provided manna for them in the wilderness, and taught them how to prepare it so they could eat it. He patiently worked with them until they were ready to trust Him enough to let Him lead them into their promised land. I have had to learn those lessons too, and I know how scary it can be. But I also know that God is good, and any opportunity He gives us to learn to trust Him is worth it. He will get us through our wilderness. It may not always seem like He is with us in our struggles, but He is. And when we have made it through, we will be able to look back and see His tender mercies woven throughout our whole journey, if we will trust Him enough to keep our hand in His and keep walking.

Additional Resource:

"Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence", Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Speeches

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