Who Leads You

This past week I was reminded over and again the impact of our past.

Wolf packYou are a product of where you came from. Your thoughts, habits and dogma were formed from an early age.

Long before you presented yourself to the world on any give day, you were who you were, very likely, before you even started school. Your likes, dislikes, taste, predilection for comfort and knowledge, temper and anger responses, ability to learn and use what you have learned.

As my mother-in-law requested carrot salad this week, and for whatever reason that I do not understand, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am not a fan! I remember, probably as a 3-year-old not being allowed from the table until I swallowed a bite of something that did not look appealing. Orange, sweetened carrots with raisins.

To this day, you will not even get me to try something I’ve not “liked” for nearly 60 years.

This is the way it is with us. We have formed who we are by our surroundings that life has put us in. True, we may become brave and stretch those boundaries and learn how to like things.

Broccoli was never in my world until my late 30’s, and then I called them little trees – but eventually it became one of my favorite foods along with Spinach, Collard greens, Mustard greens – all work for me as long as they are cooked to my liking, and then doused with appropriate Trappey’s sauce.

We seldom change, unless life throws a curve ball and then we learn how to adapt. It’s almost as if we played that came of childhood, and our parents and surroundings were our leader. Remember the game? Follow the Leader, almost like Simon’s Says.

Someone is in charge, and is the commander and leader. Where and how they go, we follow. We mimic. We duplicate. Replicate. As we make mistakes, we are dropped from the game until finally one is left as the winner. Then THEY become the leader.

A running thought through my mind these past few days has been dealing with adaptation.

Adapt = “become adjusted to new conditions” or as to dealing with something that needs to be adapted to new purpose.

We learn to adjust to new conditions. Or we fail to move on in life. I am constantly reminded of those who learn to survive awful life changing events by adapting to their new situation, mainly because they can no longer return to their previous existence. Or perhaps their lives have changed so much they could never dream of returning.

There is a blessing in knowing the path we are on is the right path, and we never think about returning to the life before us.

This reminds me of several someone’s in scripture.

I could share with you how that Noah never had an opportunity to return to his previous life, as that life no longer existed. He adapted to his new reality.

Or we could study Elijah and Elisha. “Give me a double portion of your spirit” says Elisha to his elder (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah responds, “Thou has asked a hard thing… and if you see me as I am taken from you, then it shall be so.”

Elisha sees, is blessed with the double portion and mantle of Elijah, and never looks back at his old life.

Perhaps we could even study the Apostle Paul and see how his trip on the road to Damascus changed him forever, and he never looked back even when he paints the strangeness of his present life.

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.  (2 Corinthians 11:24-30 NKJV)

Do we ever see him looking over his shoulder wishing for life the way it once was? No. We even see him watching a follower depart from him and return to life as it was before he was a believer. At the end of his life, he tells Timothy.

“…for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—…” (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV)

I almost hear the forlorn voice of Paul… 
Demas! Demas?

For just a few moments, let me take another story that you may be familiar with and share with you.

Naomi. Her husband has died, and then her two sons take wives and they too pass away. Naomi is left alone with no one to care for her. You may wonder about this, but consider the lands and times that her story comes from. Widow women with no one to care for them were often left to the edges of life unless someone stepped in and took ownership for their care. No brothers from her husband, and no sons from her womb.

What is she to do?

She is living in Moab and decides to return to her homeland. Moab, on the eastern shores of the Dead Sea, a portion of the land where Jordan is today. In our present time a very inhospitable piece of ground, and for all times, it would seem, it was at odds with Israel.

She turns to her daughter-in-law’s and tells them.

Ruth and NaomiAnd Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. (Ruth 1:8-9 NKJV)

Why tell them this? Perhaps they will not be welcomed in her homeland. She will definitely not have the ability to bear new sons for them to have as husbands. Regardless, they are released from her to return to their own lives as much as they can make of it.

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her. Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:14-19 NKJV)

Do not urge me to leave! You and I are connected by something more than kinship. I have no better place to go. Your God. Your People. My God. My People.

Take a quick moment to notice. One leaves. One stays. One returns to the gods and lands of her people, but the other grabs hold onto the hope of a mother-in-law that knows a different God and a different people.

I have one thought to share from all of this.

Get your eyes and heart fixed on who you are supposed to follow.

Don’t go back. Don’t separate yourself from the path that leads to God. Don’t look over your shoulder at your past. State your case before God and your family, friends, and others that care for you. Find the bearer of truth, treat them like a leader! Do not mess up in your following of that leader so you are dropped from the walk. Do not return to some former life. Focus on adapting to God’s ways.

Be like Ruth.

Your God is my God.