Friday, February 1, 2013

Finding God in the wilderness

A friend mentioned to me, almost offhandedly, something about entering his wilderness years.  At the time, I didn't really understand what he was talking about.  But hours after that, the word wilderness kept penetrating my spirit.  As I started to meditate more on what it means to be in the wilderness...the searching, the testing, the fear, the courage, the immense faith required, the understanding of one's smallness as well as one's connection to something greater...I realized how powerful and rich this experience can be if we open ourselves to it.

The wilderness period is not uncommon.  We find this stage in our sacred and cultural texts as well as in our everyday lives.  At first, the wilderness can be very frightening.  How did I get here?  What am I supposed to do?  Can I survive?  Where is everyone?  Where is God? 

But, what if, we could get past the fear and see this as the opportunity to deepen our understanding of who God is, and thus, who We are.  What if we used the wilderness as an opportunity to learn what it means to surrender control and trust God? 

spiritual wilderness
I flash-backed to an experience when I was literally in the wilderness.  My best friend and I, both of us searching and trying to understand what God was doing in our lives, decided to take a day off and go to this open land in the woods that a small church owned and maintained specifically for others to find quiet time with God.  My friend and I fasted for the day, in expectancy of what we might learn.  In silence, we walked the grounds of this place.  I found myself drawn to a small lake, and as I departed from my friend to go there, he passed me his bible.  I sat by the lake, waiting for something.  This was the year that I first began questioning what it is that my life is about.  The first time I started to feel that something wasn't quite right.  That I was still somehow in the dark.  That there was something more  I wasn't embodying.  I wanted to be free. 

It began to rain.  I opened my bible to Psalm 29, which reads: ". . . The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders . . . The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars . . . The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the Lord shakes the desert [the wilderness] . . . The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.  And in his temple all cry, 'Glory!' The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."

God reminded me then and now of both His wondrous power and His love for me.  He let me know that He is ruler over all things; and that, no matter what I may experience, He will forever give me His strength and peace.

Paul writes "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This one sentence lets us know that 1) God is working on our behalf, 2) whatever he is doing is for our good, 3) we are all called, and 4) we all have purpose.  

What if we really believed that?

Recently, I found myself thinking, I wonder what God is going to do about . . . Not in the usual, oh my God! What are you going to do?!?!?!?!?!  (while pulling my hair out :)).  But, almost laughing to myself, with wonderment and expectation.  Wow, God, I wonder. 

You see, when you change your perspective, you change your experience.   

We all know the story of Moses bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. They were to enter the Promised Land.  On their way to the promises, they experienced God performing wondrous signs and miracles. Yet, still they feared; still they lacked faith.  After years of enslavement, they did not believe they were worthy enough to ever be free.  They wanted to go back to the way things used to be.  That pain and suffering was what they were accustomed to.  They couldn’t fully believe in the future that was theirs, even when it was right in front of them for the taking. 

But the discomfort they experienced in the wilderness, this discomfort of transition, was a temporary passage on the grand journey of their lives.   

When an assembly of men went to explore the Promised Land, they reported that in fact it was the land God was sending to them.  But rather than seeing their destiny, the very promises of God, they saw only the challenges that needed to be overcome to get there.

Yet, the Word of God declares the we are overcomers.  By faith, we overcome anything that comes our way, knowing that anything obstacle, any block in our path has already been overcome by the One who has power over all.

Later, I will  talk more about how we begin to change our perception, to change our stories.  For now, I pray that we begin to believe in our very souls that God is our watchman.  Lord, we thank you that our help comes from you; that at all times and in all places, you provide a shade of protection around us and keep our foot from slipping on the path.

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