Traveling clothes

When nephew Kevin first joined us in January 2008, he was only five years old, and he was a very picky eater. And not only was he a picky eater, he was a slow eater. In fact, he was the slowest eater I’d ever shared a table with. He ate so slow it was all Cyndi and I could to stay upright in our chairs while watching him. Sometimes I think Kevin ate slow because he was hoping we’d give up and fix him something else, like macaroni and cheese with ketchup. We eventually convinced him that we weren’t going to change the menu and he could just go to bed hungry if he didn’t like what we were eating. Other times I think he ate so slowly because he was in some sort of Calvin-and-Hobbes fantasy land and he simply forgot to put food in his mouth.

During those early days together, if you happened to eat a meal with Cyndi and Kevin and me, you heard us urging him to hurry up and eat. “We’re not staying here all day,” we said.

It had been my prior experience that few kids needed to be sped up while eating. Most needed to be slowed down. Kevin was the exception in my world.

However, Kevin is now seven years old and he has a year-and-a-half of elementary school cafeteria lunches behind him and he no longer eats so slow. He doesn’t gobble his food like some kids, but at least he eats quickly enough that Cyndi and I can stay awake while we are waiting.

I thought about Kevin last week while reading from Exodus 12:11, about God’s instructions to the Israelite people for eating their Passover meal. It says, “Eat it in haste.” I imagined the parents telling their kids “stop eating so slow, we can’t stay here all day.”

The Living Bible says it like this: “Eat it with your traveling clothes on, prepared for a long journey, wearing your walking shoes and carrying your walking stick in your hands; eat it hurriedly …”

It is ironic that I used to long for days with slow meals. I looked forward to the time when I would be sufficiently grown up enough that I wouldn’t be off-balanced all the time. I would finally get caught up. I could settle into the right job, settle into the right house with the right dog and the right pick-up truck, using my relaxed energies to do creative work and enjoy life. I looked forward to the day “when all this mess would slow down and I could get caught up.”

Well, it hasn’t happened. And if I use past behavior to predict future performance, it won’t happen any time soon. In fact, I will probably never settle. For one thing, the settled life sounds too boring. People living settled lives have little impact on the world around them, and I don’t want to live a life with no impact.

And for another thing – I don’t believe God wants any of us to live settled lives. I believe he wants us living every day like a Passover meal, with our traveling clothes on, prepared for a long journey. He wants us leaning forward ready to follow his lead.

So I kept reading from Exodus, up to the point in the story after they’d been thrown out of Egypt and the chariots were bearing down on them and they were trapped up against the Red Sea. Moses spoke to their fears when he said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you’ll see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)

It was great advice, and even greater leadership. Like a father of young kids saying, “Don’t be afraid. Stand here at the curb and watch me get your ball for you.”

So how does standing firm work with a life lived in traveling clothes? Should we be moving all the time, or standing and waiting? Well, in Exodus 14:15, the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to move on.” No more waiting, time to move.

I wrote in the margin of my Bible: “Is this conflicting advice? “Be still” and “move on” sound like mixed signals. How can we do both?”

I think the answer is to stand still and trust God for the big outcomes, but to move into what we know to do right now. I must learn to wait on God while being ready to move on. Wait for God while wearing my traveling clothes.

Rich Mullins once wrote: “I feel like God’s leading me out, so I’m kind of sleeping with my shoes on. When God parts the sea, I don’t want to say, “Oh rats, where are my sandals.””



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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