My second son’s birth was difficult. Due to an awful experience with the epidural for my first son, Joshua, I opted out of the procedure for my second son. Joshua was 7lbs. 13oz. and, convinced by the doctor this sweet baby boy would be about the same, I figured I could manage the pain. As it turned out, the doctor was slightly off on his estimate. Two pounds off to be exact. Nathan was 9lbs. 13oz., which equated to several hours of sheer misery. Much of the labor pain was in my back and I remember looking at my mom at one point and whimpering, “I can’t do this.” Without missing a beat, she looked straight at me and responded, “You have to.”
Fast forward to last month. Nathan had been floundering in middle school since his first day last August. He struggled, without success, to fit in and acclimate to the student culture he encountered every day. But over the course of seven months, it became apparent that it just wasn’t working. He was bullied relentlessly and called “nerd” or “geek” nearly every day. Needless to say, it wore on him. Slowly but surely, it whittled down his spirit and bruised his heart. Finally, when the bullying turned to threats one day, we made the difficult decision to pull him out of school and homeschool him.
When people around me got wind of our decision, I heard words like “brave” and “courageous.” I was routinely told how impressed people were by my boldness. But the truth is, I wasn’t feeling brave. I’m still not. I simply did what was necessary for my child. If I was truly honest, I’ve never had any aspirations to be a homeschool mom and I still don’t. I don’t have a fire or passion for it. But what I do have a fire and passion for is my son, and in that moment, that was enough.
As I walked out of the middle school that day, terrified of the reality I had just created, I whispered in my heart, “I can’t do this.” Immediately came the words I had heard once before, some 11 years ago; this time, however, they were uttered by my Heavenly Father. “You have to.”
There is another mother who must’ve no doubt wrestled with an exponentially more heart-wrenching decision. Exodus 2 tells us that a Levite woman conceived and gave birth to a son during a time when every Hebrew baby boy was being sentenced to death by a jealous and fearful pharaoh. So that woman hid her son for three months. But according to verse 3, “when she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket … and put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.”
I can only imagine the agony she would’ve experienced as she knelt by the water’s edge and gently placed her infant son in a basket, not knowing what would become of him. I picture her, head lowered, tears streaming down her face, uttering the same words I did to a God she prayed was listening. “I can’t do this.” But somehow, perhaps hearing the same “You have to” that I heard, she pushed Moses into the river and into the hands of God.
I think we would all agree that Moses’ mother personified bravery like few others. Being a mother myself, the act of releasing your child with no guarantee of their safety or even survival, seems inconceivable and would require an unimaginable level of courage. And yet, I imagine that if we were able to have a conversation with her, Moses’ mother would dismiss our accolades and praise. She would insist that she simply held onto her faith in God with a death grip and did what was necessary. The truth is that to keep Moses in her home meant certain death. Her only chance to save him was to release him.
As the story goes, her faith not only saved Moses, but also made quite the impression on generations to come.
Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Moses’ mother. We learn a few chapters later, amidst a lengthy genealogical account, that her name was Jochebed. She was Moses’ father’s sister and she also bore at least one other son, Aaron, and a daughter, Miriam. But generally, that is the end of her story. And yet, centuries later, the author of Hebrews felt led to include her in a list of the greatest faith heroes of the Old Testament. Sandwiched between tributes to Joseph and Moses, there is a beautiful, straight-forward verse extolling Moses’ parents for their faith.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
I doubt that Jochebed set out to be a hero of faith. I’m sure, wading in the Nile River, kissing her son’s forehead for what she thought would be the last time, she simply longed for her child to be okay. Her entire world was floating in that basket and, like any mother, she must’ve wanted nothing more than to keep him from harm.
I don’t know about you, but I find that often times my faith is forced. As was the case with my son, I had no choice but to put my faith in God. Out of alternatives and fearing for Nathan’s emotional safety and security, faith in God became my only option.
Sometimes, faith is a conscious choice. There are situations where we stand before a fork in the road and we can either follow God or follow our own inclinations. And other times, God pushes us to the very edge of a cliff and all we can do is jump. Standing before an infinite abyss, we cry out to God, “I can’t do this.” But knowing there is no going back, the Father whispers to our soul, “You have to.” And gathering any courage we have, no matter how little, we close our eyes and leap.
In those moments, I have found that every single time God brings me to that place, one of three things happens: God catches me, He reveals a bridge, or He gives me wings. You’d think by now that I wouldn’t be surprised by God’s provision and yet, in my smallness and humanity, I am continually humbled and amazed by the lengths God will go to in order to save me.
I don’t know what this next season with Nathan will bring. I am uncertain and want nothing more than an assurance that my child will be okay. I feel ill-equipped and unable. But thankfully, similar to Jochebed, I have just enough faith to leap. Just enough faith to wade into the river and trust that God will provide the right current to take us where we need to go.