It’s nice to think that God is out in front, leading the charge in our lives; to think in terms of following. I mean, it was Jesus himself who said, “Come follow me.” So thinking of God being out in front, us following behind, this is good imagery and I think it’s the way God leads us…except when it’s not. Sometimes in life I’ve found myself looking forward, looking in the direction God has been leading me, and wondering, where did God go? It doesn’t feel like he’s out in front. It doesn’t feel like he’s leading.
Sometimes I wonder where he’s gone and why I don’t seem to sense his presence leading as much as I have in the past. It can feel like God led out into a place or a circumstance only to then suddenly disappear from leading the procession.
What I’m learning is that God doesn’t always lead from the front. I think that often he does. I think that often God chooses the “Follow me” method. But sometimes God knows what we really need is a push in the right direction. Sometimes God leads from behind.
Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night. Exodus 14:19-20
The situation has become bleak—from the perspective of the Israelites. There does not seem like any good way to go. The Egyptians are behind them and the sea is before them. This would seem like there isn’t a move that could be considered a good choice. Most likely—if left to themselves—the Israelites would have just turned back to the Egyptians, given themselves up…and been slaughtered for it. Afterall, there is only water out in front. But God has other ideas and he divides the Israelites from Egypt.
Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp.
Sometimes God leads from behind to protect us from going back. To keep us from turning in that direction. Sometimes it’s to push us forward even when forward doesn’t seem like a desirable option. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s tendency to go to the rear of the procession as well.
Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21
Right behind you a voice will say…
Right behind you.
I don’t know why, but I’ve never given much thought to God leading me from behind. I guess I’ve always loved the idea of him out in front, blazing the trail, cutting the path. But there is something comforting about God leaning over my shoulder, his voice, confident and clear, “This is the way you should go.”
Sometimes God leads us from behind us—as much to protect us from our enemies as to protect us from ourselves and the choices we would make if that direction were an option. There are times in life where the only way I’ll be going the way I should go is if I get a little push. So when I look out front and don’t see God leading I’m going to remember: Sometimes God leads from behind and I’m going to listen for his voice and look for his way—the way I should go.