Plunging into the Unknown

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Nicole T. Walters -Faith Action3

He fought the urge to close his eyes and shut out the fear rising up in his chest. The salty smell of the sea overtook his senses as the chill hit his waist. The growing sound of the waves drowned out the gasps of the people watching in amazement. His own heartbeat roared in his ears as the water reached his shoulders. He held onto the promise that was his lifeline.

They had come this far, seen the hand of God leading them at every step. He remembered the blood-red Nile, the cries in the night when they huddled in their homes holding their own firstborn sons like their very grips on them would protect them. He looked back one last time at the thousands on the banks, watching him with wide eyes. He couldn’t see a way through the sea yet but the Miracle Worker who brought them here said to go. So, Nashon breathed one last deep breath before plunging headlong into the unknown.

***

I’ve been submerging myself in the words of Exodus these days, after several gentle nudges from God. A friend would mention stepping into the Red Sea before it parted as encouragement to keep the faith that all of the unknown in our lives right now is leading to a chance at greater obedience. The haunting words of an old Sara Groves song kept coming up in the shuffle of my playlist … “I’m caught between the promise and the things I know.” So, I returned to the old familiar stories of the Children of Israel whose entire lives were changing with every step they took towards the sea and all that lay beyond it.

In searching for what God was trying to show me, I read about Nashon for the first time. His name is one of those I have glossed over a dozen times in the Bible, one in a long list of names that have a place in God’s story that we only glimpse in passing. Nashon was brother-in-law to Aaron, one of the leaders of the tribe of Judah that left Egypt for the promise of God waiting beyond the sea. Mentioned again in the genealogy of Jesus in the New Testament, we learn that he was exactly halfway in the direct line from Judah and King David.

It is in the Midrash, the ancient Jewish commentary on the Hebrew scriptures, that we find the rest of Nashon’s story. Oral tradition passed down through the years and finally recorded says that Nashon was the first to enter the Red Sea when the Israelites were fleeing slavery in Egypt. God had shown the people He had not forgotten them, promised to deliver them to the place prepared for them. But once they were faced with the obstacle before them, they hesitated. They doubted God’s ability … until someone had the boldness to take the first step.

***

Now I am facing my own Red Sea. The promise seems so far off in the distance that sometimes I wonder if it exists at all. Most days the waves intimidate me back into inaction and anxiety. I want to run back to the comfort of Egypt, even though I know the slavery that is waiting for me there.

The change is too big. The obstacles are too great. I am so small in the face of it. I close my eyes and remember that the change I seek doesn’t come without courage on my part. Silent faith is not enough. My faith has to turn into action or it is no faith at all.

I don’t know if Nashon’s story is just legend. It doesn’t really matter. Today it is reminding me that this journey is by faith, not sight. That everything about the path we take is unknown except that God goes ahead of us.

So today I fight the urge to close my eyes and shut out the fear rising up in my chest. The smell of paint overtakes my senses as we put the finishing touches on the only home our youngest has known, preparing it to sell. We don’t have another permanent home yet. We won’t for months. The sound of the tape sealing up another box are all I hear as I take a step into the waves. The growing sound of my doubt threatens to drown out anything else when I remember how far off we are from having all the funds in place for our move. I plan to leave my current job anyway at the end of spring. My own heartbeat roars in my ears as the water reaches my shoulders. I hold onto the promise that is my lifeline.

“We will sing to our souls. We won’t bury our hope. Where he leads us to go there’s a Red Sea road. When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves. And we’ll never walk alone down the Red Sea road.” – Ellie Holcomb

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Nicole T Walters
I love to experience and to write about this messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not my own. Though my family’s roots run deep in the soil of the Southern United States I, along with my husband and our two little ones, am learning to love hot milk tea instead of sweet iced tea as we make our home in South Asia. I hope to help others create space to hear God’s voice in all the noise of life as I write about faith from a global perspective at A Voice in the Noise {nicoleTwalters.com}. I have authored essays in several books and my writing has appeared in places live CT Women, Relevant, and Ruminate. I am a regular contributor at here at SheLove, The Mudroom, and READY Publication and am a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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Nicole T Walters
  • Kellie Cornelison

    Beautiful writing! It sounds like you’re on the verge of experiencing a miracle, exciting and terrifying at the same time. As Moses told the Israelites, “Stand and see the salvation of the Lord!”

    • Thanks Kellie. Believing for the miracle when it isn’t in our timing is the hard part, isn’t it? I wouldn’t change the faith growing journeys for the world (though when in the midst of them I might tell you otherwise:)

  • I’ve been studying in Exodus, too, lately, and also just discovered Ellie Holcomb’s wonderful Red Sea Road — and now you’ve given me this amazing image of Nashon-Faith! May we find grace to plunge boldly into the will of God!

    • A friend and I were just talking about how for some people the waters part when they put a toe in the water and for some it needs to reach the point where they are gasping for breath before God reveals the path ahead. (I’m usually the latter but I think that probably says something for the growing I need to do). Plunging in with you, friend!

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  • Nicole, I love how you incorporate your story into the community of the Israelites. What a reminder to find myself in those ancient lessons. I am terrible at taking the first step – I want someone else to go first, to map out the territory. I guess I just don’t view myself as brave enough. But, that is putting the entire weight on me as a person, rather than God as divine. Thank you for helping me reflect into something far greater!

    • Oh us planners have the hardest times with the unknown, don’t we? It’s in stripping away of all my plans that I’m learning how little control I actually ever had. Thank you for the encouragement, Annie!

  • Janna Lynas

    Beautifully written… prompting me to go back to Exodus myself.