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The Lord will make a way for you where no foot has been before. That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be like a highway for your escape.” – Charles Spurgeon

My husband is nearing the end of his graduate program in building sciences. Time and again over the last year he has taken one singular, dogged stance when it comes to his future career: “I’ll go anywhere but California or New York.”

He’s almost exclusively been gunning for a job in Birmingham, my home town. In fact, we’ve been so confident in his placement there, we’ve told everyone we’re coming back! We’ve been looking at real estate, even have our kids on wait lists at several preschools. Our doctors are there. Our church is there. Our people are there. After several years of dealing with chronic and unresolved medical issues (let’s not even get into my propensity for total mental collapses), living in Birmingham would be of huge relief – with family just minutes away, ready to lend a hand when I’m not feeling well.

After four years of the semi-nomadic life, slowly migrating west from Savannah, Georgia to Auburn, Alabama (where the hubs is now in school), we’re treacherously close to our life goals – and they taste a lot like Dreamland BBQ and Good People Brewing. The warm hugs and white picket fences of Birmingham are right around the corner. If we could just get there, we’d finally plant some roots. We’d be safe. We’d be home.

But then, several weeks ago, my husband accepted an offer from a company based out of Irvine, California.

You heard me right. Ca-li-for-ni-a.

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Okay so it wasn’t the bubonic plague. But it wasn’t great, either.

He received this offer a month or so ago, but we didn’t take it too seriously at the time. We obviously weren’t going to move across the country! As the days went by and we learned more about this exciting and innovative company though, turning down the job just wasn’t an option.

Come August, we’ll haul our two babies and a puggle across the continent to the promised land: a shiny place called Orange County.

Although technically it was our decision to go, there weren’t enough brown bags in the world to get me through this new reality. I felt like I was gripping the trunk of a palm tree bent in the gales of a hurricane – taking sharp debris to the face all the while. What if I fall apart out there? What if my health declines even further? What if our salaries are not enough to live by or our kids get stuck in a dumpy preschool? WHAT ABOUT THE REALLY BIG ONE?

Then, right in the hostile gusts of the wild and willy-nilly whirlwind, I found solace in a little book called The Red Sea Rules, by Robert J. Morgan. I know, I know, you’re miffed by the notion of more rules. But these “rules” read more like blessed reminders and less like unattainable law. If you’ve ever been through a dark and trying situation – helpless, afraid, alone – then you know that God’s truth often seems to swirl around like shrapnel, impossible to grasp. Sometimes in the chaos and the dark, you need a small plumb line (like this book) to put your feet on level ground, to aim you towards the light.

The author says this:

The Red Sea may roll before us; the desert may entrap us; the enemy may press on our heels. The past may seem implausible and the future impossible, but God works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way of escape for His weary, but waiting, children.”

The following includes what we’ll call “The Red Sea Reminders.”

moving-to-new-city-budgetFirst, God means for you to be where you are. Sometimes unexpected life events feel like big cosmic accidents, as if God is up in heaven, shocked and fumbling and not sure how to fix the problem. But focusing on the fact that He is surprised by nothing and in control of everything makes me start to uncurl from the fetal position. “The same God who led you in will lead you out.”

Second, God’s glory is more important than our relief. This one is tough for me. I love relief. Relief is the greatest. I’m constantly searching for it by way of babysitters, cabernet, Advil, or a nap. The events of Exodus imply that God intentionally led the Israelites to this impossible place, betwixt ocean and army, in order to demonstrate his awesome power. What if they’d gone a safer way through the Philistine country? “On that dramatic evening, God’s glory sparkled in the moonlight as the ocean’s spray dashed and danced hither and yon until the waters divided and the sea floor appeared as dry ground.” Whoa.

The Red Sea Rules reminded me to stay calm and confident, and give God time to work. If you’ve met me, you’ll agree that I’m not calm or confident by any odd stretch of the imagination. But this is still decent advice.

When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith: critical wisdom. I once survived a terrible season of life by focusing on and praying through only the next few minutes ahead, and then the few minutes after that. God was with me during each nanosecond. He carried me through every painful and confusing moment. Inhale. Exhale. Now turn left.

God’s nearness is tangible, if we would open our eyes to it: God went before the Israelites in a cloud by day and a fire by night, to show them the way to go. He physically never left them. Here, between a rock and a hard place where there’s no helping ourselves, God’s presence seems just as physical. I can lay my head in His lap, sense a guiding hand against my back urging, “One foot in front of the other, Charlotte.”

God will deliver in His own unique way: This can be a tough pill to swallow. Because maybe it means our illness isn’t curable, or the divorce really is final. Maybe it means my forever home is in California, a continent away from where I’d hoped it would be. But God is infinitely smarter than me, more creative than me, stronger than me, and more loving than me. With those characteristics in mind, I pray for the grace to trust that His version of my story is better than my version.

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Our current crises are faith-builders for the future: Our faith is strengthened by way of remembering who God is and what He has done before. In the movie Sleeping with Other People, which probably seems out of context in this article, two best friends (would-be soul mates) tell each other, “I love you for free.” That line has stuck with me; it’s a nice aspiration in loving one another. As selfish and flawed humans though, we’ll always come up a little (a lot) short, no matter how hard we try. So it’s almost impossible to believe when it comes to God. He loves us for free? “Yes even you, I love you for free.” A love like that has calmed storms, raised the dead, died for us, and turned raging oceans into firm stable ground.

He’s carried me through before. He’ll do it again.

Finally, the last Red Sea Reminder is that praising God, even for the hard times, heals: Gratitude and thankfulness have proven swift and capable antidotes to my self-pity and fear. I have so very much to be thankful for: from the food on my table to my two precious children, my best friend/husband, and the fact that Californians make a helluva guacamole. By grace alone I also find myself giving thanks for this challenging time. Through it, God has continued to bring me to my knees in intimate (sometimes snarky and resentful) conversation with Him. Gratitude is transformative. But even that I can’t manage without asking for help.

This is the second time in a year I have turned to The Red Sea Rules. Both times, it has offered nothing but relief, reminding me of a mighty God who fiercely loves His unlovable children; and sometimes (for reasons unknown to us), He also draws His beloved face first into the raging storm.

There are certainly worse things in life than a cross-country move. But it wasn’t my plan. I’m afraid. Each day, though, the Lord has placed new excitement in my anxious heart for this hilarious adventure ahead. I see how He is carving a way through the wilderness, making a perfect place for us in this new land, and (at my best) I feel thankful.

In lieu of brown-bagging it until August, my mantra is this: “kids-husband-guac-kids-husband-guac-LET’SDOTHIS!”

The reality of the Red Sea, in a word, is this: God will always make a way for His tired, yet trusting, children, even if He must split the sea to do it.” – The Red Sea Rules

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