“For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”’ Deut. 2:7 (NASB)
Today is a day I have waited for since I moved here. It is the day I give notice that I am retiring from my day job. In just a few short weeks I will be returning to full-time ministry and leaving behind my job in the medical field for what I think will be the final time.
I have been wandering through this wilderness for nearly three years. No one enters the wilderness knowing what the journey will entail or how long they will be there. Many times we are not even sure we are in the wilderness until one day we look around and realize that is where we are! So much has happened in these three years… When I began this wandering I had no idea what it would look like.
The wilderness is a lonely place, and rightfully so. There are times God has to get us alone to help us see what is going on in our heart. The Lord intends to strip away the things you rely on and hide behind while you are out here, bringing you to the end of self-reliance and self-deception. This has been true in my case.
When I entered this wilderness my Mom was in the last year of her life. I realized that to minister to her I would have to set big parts of my own life aside. I did so gladly and made her care a part of my daily life.
I wandered a little further in when my husband moved here ahead of me and we spent 6 months apart. God showed me many ugly things about my sinful heart over those months. I had no idea how willful I was, and how much I demanded my own way in circumstances I had no control over. I had to do many, many things that I did not want to do over that miserable winter, and I was constantly frustrated that I could not make our house sell, and I could not control the never-ending snowfall we had that year. Emotional kicking and screaming was pointless, I had to learn to submit to God’s sovereign will.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil 4:11-13 (NASB)
When Mom passed on I arrived at a place in the wilderness that a person only goes in a time of incredible loss. I learned here that God is truly able and willing to flood us with his grace and mercy in the moments we need it.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Isaiah 43:2-3 (NASB)
My wilderness experience deepened when I moved to join my husband and took my first full-time job in a decade. I left behind my family, ministry and I dealt with the knowledge that I was adding to the loss and sorrow for my newly widowed Dad. I also lost the last year of High School with our last child, as home schooling changed dramatically. Whew…what I had experienced previously paled in comparison to what I learned here!
Remember that the purpose of the wilderness is you and God- alone. Our gracious God allowed me to suffer and wrestle my way through a 15 month portion of the journey, surely the hardest, driest, and loneliest part of my travels. I hated my job, missed “my life” and was experiencing sorrow without hope. All the people in my life became distant, my hardest critics were those closest to me and even things in my marriage were strained. The Lord was once again dealing with my heart of discontent and it was a battle I was not sure I would survive intact. I knew what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to be about, and where I wanted to be. God had other ideas.
who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? Romans 9:20-21 (NASB)
It took me a long, long time (nearly another whole year) to move into the place where I was content with what God was doing with my life. My sweet husband and I wrestled through our bumps in the road, and the other relationships that had hit rough spots also began to smooth out. I had to recognize on a deeper level than ever before that it is God who is in charge of my life. I am to hold all things and all people loosely. I had to admit that there were things that I had built altars to and idolized and loved and wanted more than what God wanted for me.
My priorities were wrong, my affections were wrong, and I know that I sorely needed this time in the wilderness. Repentance, confession, restoration, and righteousness had to become part of my life again. It was at this point that I began to move toward the exit of the wilderness.
So, here I am. The sands of the wilderness have thinned out, and I can see the green grass of civilization ahead of me. The land is lush and full and I am lean and thin from this journey. This has been hard. “Hard” does not truly come close to accurately defining this time, but it will have to suffice. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it is bad. In fact, this has been a very good time of growing and changing for me and I look forward to what God has for me on the rest of life’s journey. I am not finished; this is just really an oasis, a resting place between wildernesses. Because my heart remains sinful and God remains faithful I know I have more to learn and more to change. For now, I am rejoicing that I am in this place and looking forward to a time of refreshment.
I do ask for your prayers. While this life-change is something we are looking forward to, it will not be without its challenges. I am anticipating greater avenues to serve, ministering to more women than ever before (by God’s grace), and the opportunity to resume being a wife and Mom in the way I believe God has called me to be one. I know I am abundantly blessed.