“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6v16
“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90v12
I always take note of numbers and dates, because over the years it is one of the ways God has marked my path. I love to stand and look back, count days in my diary, try to discern the seasons of the Lord. When things line up without me planning anything, it always seems so personal, like a secret lovers’ code or a fascinating message in an ancient language of which I don’t know much, but one I’m drawn to and intrigued by. I suppose its a bit like Egyptian hieroglyphics or an ancient African dialect – not spoken widely, not very useful for mass communication, sounds really weird to the majority of people and is more likely to bring confusion than clarity! As I have mentioned before (in 10.10.10) the meaning of numbers is open to interpretation by all sorts of strange people… but God certainly uses pictures and dreams, symbols with shades of meaning, to speak to humans about things that are beyond our understanding: that is very clear in Scripture as well as in our contemporary experience. All prophetic symbolism requires interpretation – and it sometimes has more than one meaning – its a question of catching the whisper of the Spirit as He blows by, connecting us into another dimension as He activates vision and faith. We see in part and we prophesy in part: one day we will understand everything fully! (1 Corinthians 13v9-12).
So, like you, I noticed that it was 1st December yesterday. But with my interest in numbers that didn’t just mean Christmas is nearer than it was and its going to be even darker and colder outside. It meant that my attention was drawn… Suddenly there I was, ‘standing at the crossroads and looking back’ down the road to 1st April 2009. It was the very day that Sam called down the stairs, “Mum, I can’t see!” and in response I heard a voice in my head that said, “From now on your life will change forever.” Ah – of course I pushed it out, ignored it, didn’t want to listen… but later that day we discovered our son had large white areas in the grey matter of his brain – and that our lives really had changed forever. It was exactly 20 months ago.
Sometimes we don’t see the crossroads coming until we find ourselves standing at it. We have had to dig deep since then to keep our feet on the ancient path of rest, to walk in the good way, in the yoke with Jesus, letting Him take the strain. But it is good to look back and see how far we have come over those months, even though the path has been shadowed and we have often stumbled blindly along it. “Ebenezer – this far has the Lord helped us” (1 Samuel 7v12)
Funnily enough, considering tunnel experiences, it wasn’t too long before I remembered 1st December is also the 5 year anniversary of my taking part in a team who were prayer- walking through France and Italy, from Whitby to Rome in 4 months: I was on the week the walk passed through Genoa in northern Italy. On 1st December 2005 our small team of 4 moved into a flat in that ancient city. Heading out hopefully to begin the day’s walking on the morning of 2nd we suddenly got stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel… We were there for 2 hours and then another hour outside the tunnel before the traffic started moving again! It was an experience that took us all to the edge of patience and tried us to the limit – and it became a cameo of the personal struggles we faced that week as we each hit the wall through our exhaustion, fears and weaknesses. Due to the delay, the timetable of the walk was left hanging in the balance and tempers were frayed. Yet it was through the point of squeezing that the overcoming spirit came through to the finish line on time, just like a baby being born through the narrow place into new life. Steve, who led the team, has also mentioned this experience in his blog about ‘tipping points’ a couple of days ago
“For You, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water… but you brought us out into a spacious place” Psalm 66v10-12
So the tunnel remains as a reminder, a picture of our journey through the dark and narrow place, the valley of the shadow. In the past 20 months, in our waiting and walking in the dark, we have continued to trust that there will be an emergence into the light of day. But I do have to admit we cannot see that light at the moment… In fact it looks more like this, the ‘unknown path’ where the light is just enough for the next step or two and the darkness encroaches all around:
But I do know that the Lord lives in that darkness, He dwells in the cloud and ‘darkness is as light to You’ (Psalm 139v12); His hand is there to guide and His arms are underneath.
As for timescales… there is no clear indication of mileage on the signs! So often we misread them and think we know how far it is and when things will happen, but beware, the numbers can be deceptive. My small understanding of the language of numbers certainly leads me to calculate that having walked 20 months from 1.4.09 to 1.12.10 there is an equivalent 20 months ahead now until 1.8.12. So just maybe this means that 1.8.12 will be another marker in our journey, 40 months from the start. It is an auspicious date! 8 is the number of resurrection and new beginnings, 12 of authority and government: 40 itself denotes a spiritual journey and is the time of gestation before birthing. If I had more sight and faith perhaps I could prophesy that some conclusion will be reached by then… But for now all I can say is that my vision is less than 20:20 – and we walk by faith, not by sight. As for what the number 20 might mean… 2 is witness/agreement and 10 is about testing (again, see 10.10.10). Or maybe it is double testing: it certainly feels like it! As Sting says in one of his songs, ‘The numbers lead a dance’ 😉
One thing I have found helpful in keeping my heart on track is that we have just entered Advent. It is the season of Jesus’ coming in the traditional church calendar, and like Lent runs for 40 days: 28th November to 6th January. To have a 40 day season marked out at this mid-40-month point helps me stay fixed on the journey with Jesus. So I can follow Him through the testing in the desert to the power of the Spirit, through the wilderness years to a new generation entering the promised land, living on angel food and coming to the mountain of God to hear the still, small voice of re-commissioning, waiting in the ark while the rains come down, waiting in the ark while the waters fall… Waiting in the darkness of the tunnel with the cloud all around us, on track, on time, in step, stuck in the middle, but eyes fully fixed on Jesus.