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Going in Circles

Read Exodus 13:17-22 - Israelites leaving Egypt.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, "If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18 (NRSV)

Graham N. West lives in Wisconsin. He often becomes anxious when entering a traffic circle. It is especially challenging when he approaches his desired exit but is in the wrong lane. Veering from one lane into the next usually brings a blast of horns from other drivers, so the only option is to stay in his lane and keep driving until he finds a way to cross over.

The Exodus story describes the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness. When they left Egypt, God led them along a path that preserved them from threats so that they would not want to return to Egypt but rather would be prepared to enter the Promised Land. God did not leave them alone but went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to show them the way. Going in circles for 40 years until they reached the Promised Land allowed the Hebrew people to learn to trust God.

Though we may sometimes find ourselves going in circles, we can trust that God has not left us alone but is with us, often in remarkable ways. Prayerful attention to God's presence allows us to exit the circle and find our path to God.

Prayer: Dear God, we quiet ourselves before you and open our hearts to your Spirit. Help us pay attention to your promptings that say, "This is the way; walk in it" (Is30:212). In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

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