I don’t think there can be a person in the western world, who hasn’t at some time or other seen The Wizard of Oz. It’s an iconic film and one which lingers in the memory long after the credits have rolled. One of my favourite bits, is where Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man are walking nervously through the forest, saying ‘Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’ It resonates with me, because I’m a scaredy cat.
This morning, I was reading about another bunch of scaredy cats in the book of Numbers. Interestingly, had I read this passage on Sunday morning I probably wouldn’t have got the message that God was trying to pass on to me today. Sunday afternoon needed to happen for me to be in the right place to receive Monday morning’s teaching.
I was reading Numbers 13-14; where one person from each of the tribes of Israel, 12 in all, are sent to scout out Caanan, the Promised Land. The group goes in and spends 40 days checking out the land that God promised to the Israelites when he liberated them from Egypt. They came back laden down with the rich bounty of fruit they had collected there. But although this was land promised to them by God and looked like giving them the kind of life they’ve been dreaming of up until now (they’ve been wandering through the desert eating nothing but manna and quail and drinking only water); the worry warts pipe up and mention that the people they saw there are big and scary. Plus, there are lots of them and their cities are heavily fortified. Ten of the scouting party are of the opinion that they can’t possibly defeat all these big scary people. Despite Joshua and Caleb shouting ‘come on, let’s go for it, we can do it!‘ the group ignores them, decides that it’s much too scary and wimps out of going.
God is not happy with them for this. He’s asked them to go and do this. He’s provided for them every step of the way and he’s just about to make good on his ultimate promise, when they turn into a big load of sissies and won’t take possession of it. God gets angry and vents his anger that, despite all the miracles and evidence that he will take care of them and provide for them, that they still refuse to trust and believe in him. So he washes his hands of them. God says something to the effect of this:
“You don’t want to take possession of the Promised Land, then fine. As punishment for not believing in me and trusting in me you’re going to wander in the wilderness for the next 40 YEARS – one year for every day your scouting party were in Caanan. No-one apart from Joshua and Caleb, the only two people to trust me, will see that Promised Land. They will still be alive in 40 years time, the rest of you will die in the desert.”
Having said this, the people decided that they didn’t like the sound of 40 years in the desert and a group of them went into Caanan after all. But the Lord wasn’t on their side, he’d withdrawn his favour and they got chased out by the big scary people. It didn’t end well.
So how did my Sunday afternoon resonate with Monday morning’s Bible reading?
At the moment I believe I’m being called to be a writer, something I expressed in my Life Plan post over at the Mother of Reinventions last week. However, as I mentioned earlier, I am a big old scaredy cat and getting out of my comfort zone and setting foot into my own Promised Land is something that fills me with immense fear. I have previous form when it comes to talking myself out of opportunities. I get scared and I don’t like feeling scared. As a consequence, I drop out of things frequently and miss out on so much.
If God is calling me to be a writer then the time for me to step into that Promised Land is now. Just like the Israelites, he is with me in this and He wants to me claim what he’s directing me to. If I talk myself out of it yet again and come back to this point in two years time, then there’s every chance that I’ll get chased out by the big scary people. God doesn’t want me doing this in two year’s time, he wants me to do it now. If I say no, if I say it’s too scary, what’s not to say that I won’t be wandering in the writing wilderness for the next 40 years? I could lose my opportunity and be ruing the day I said no to God.
After all, my own life is not short of a sodding great miracle. I battled for over 20 years with being massively overweight and suddenly… I’m not! There are days I look at myself in the mirror, scratch my head and wonder how the hell I lost seven stone. I know how easily I wimp out and give up, so the fact that I succeeded is a miracle in itself. There can only be one explanation – it’s God!
Yes I’m scared of moving into my own Promised Land. I don’t know how to proceed and I don’t have much confidence in myself; but I have God on my side and I’m sure he can deal with any big scary lions that jump out into my path. If this is of God – and I believe it is – then I need to trust him. He delivered on his promise to the Israelites, so why wouldn’t he deliver on the promise he’s made to me, to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)?
If I don’t want to be wandering around in the wilderness for the next 40 years, then I need to stop worrying, trust God and stop being so fearful of a talent he’s clearly given me.
When Dorothy, Scarecrow and the Tin Man were on their way to Oz they were stepping fearfully through the forest, alert for lions and tigers and bears. But they were still moving forward, even though they were scared. So perhaps my own mantra should not be ‘lions and tigers and bears, oh my’! but ‘literary agents, newspaper editors and critics, so what?’
After all, does it not say in Romans 8:31 ‘If God is for us, who shall be against us?’
Yes, I’m a cowardly lion, but I have a Great Big God. I would do well to remember that.
Rachel J Lewis | 17th October 2011