When God Leads from Behind

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 
(Ps. 23:6)


As I look back on the path that brought me to dwell in my “new house,” (see Part: 1, "Lucky" to read about that process) I see it was goodness and mercy that watched over me on days when the light grew dim and the shadows stretched long.

Those “twin guardian angels,” as C.H. Spurgeon called goodness and mercy have followed me. They’ve had my back. God is not a harsh taskmaster who drives us. He is a gentle Shepherd who leads, often from behind.

His care reminds me of the elementary schoolteacher who gives the privilege of leading the line to one of her students and then steps to the back of her class as they set out to the library, the cafeteria, or the playground. The teacher can see her charges, and if necessary, direct from behind. 

God puts those in his care before him.


For most of my life, I wanted to be the line leader. I didn’t want to be among the followers. I wasn’t good at following. The Holy Spirit knew I needed a long lesson on the paradoxical grace that “the first will be last.” The further back in the line, the closer I am to the Shepherd.

Could He have taught me another way? Could this process have been shortened if I had understood more and participated with understanding? Does it matter?

Do I even need the answers to those questions since it’s impossible to go back? Forward is the trajectory of life and the reason God set time to a pace. Every day is a new beginning, a resurrection of sorts. Each morning there are new mercies; we rise to find our strength renewed.

If God is leading from behind, how do find our way?

The path of life is paved with love. Without love, it matters not if we are good or right, at the front of the line or the back. We need to check ourselves as Christians before we spew our condemnations into the world from a self-righteous high horse, demanding to always be the leader. Jesus never sounds like a “clanging cymbal.” Neither should we.

Love whispers. Those with quiet souls hear his voice. They follow.


When God sent Jesus into the world, He proved his love to us. It can be difficult to accept love that is unearned. Because the love relationship with God is so intimate, we feel extremely vulnerable in the relationship. God knows us completely. Being known can be unnerving because we understand how much we fall short of meriting his love. The challenge is to accept God’s love even as we accept our limited understanding of who He is and where he is taking us, especially when we lack understanding.

"Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?" (Job 26:14 ESV)

This truth keeps many people from the greatest love of their lives—being unwilling to enter a relationship with someone they feel they can’t know. 

Because we can’t fully comprehend all that God is, the devil wants us to consider that God is holding out on us, that He is unpredictable and unreachable from the standpoint of being relevant to the here and now. Jesus came to make the Father known. He is the revelation of the love of God. He came that we might understand just how much God is for us.

One Saturday morning, the sun was falling through the cracks in the curtains when a text dinged in from a friend. This particular friend and I have had the blessing of sharing vulnerable parts of our lives. She has given me the joy of speaking into her life as she’s a little behind me. We have what I call a spiritual friendship. Because life is hard and nudges us toward questions, she sent one my way on a Saturday morning on a day she was struggling like we all do:

“Why did God save us?” 

I wasn't awake enough to give long answers, so I gave the one that spoke to the intention of His heart:

“He wants us to sit by him.”

God loves us. He loved us so much that he found the way to bring us into his holy presence to give us a seat at his table. The revelation of God’s love for us helps us turn from our own path leading us away from the heart of God and helps us to see how Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest act of love in all of history. In mystery, we believe God’s gift is for us. Faith takes root. The grace of God saves us. We are loved eternally. We get to sit by Him.

Each day the Lord leads us down paths of righteousness and restores our souls, leading us to places of rest and fullness. He brings us back to who we are meant to be. He sets out a place at the table for us and invites us to sit next to Him. Much of the time, He leads us from behind.

"Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left."
(Is. 30:21)

Have you struggled with following? Is following easy for you or hard? Have you learned to balance following with leading, serving, and influencing others for the kingdom of God? 


Comments

  1. This is an interesting concept to me since one verse I cling to is deut 31:8 that says the Lord will go before us. I haven't considered him leading us, guiding us from behind. Obviously he does both but its comforting for me to think of him going before me in battle but allowing me to make my own path or being free to choose my own way through life. 🧡

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