Sometimes the only way home is through the one place we would never choose to go: The Wilderness.
I have found that there are two ways to get to the wilderness. One, you can decide to take yourself there out of pure, unbridled obedience. Someone else is sending you and you know in your heart that you have to go. If you opt for this route, be prepared. A lot of people in your circle will think you’re crazy. But I’m here to tell you that you are most certainly not crazy. In fact, it might be the sanest day of your life when you opt out of everything that you’ve known that’s comfortable and “normal.”
So, that’s one way to get there.
The other way is for the wilderness to come to you. You’re going along in your life minding your own business and then suddenly the streets disappear and the grass turns to sand. There are mountains to climb now that weren’t there before. It’s quiet, and it’s scary out there. All of the maps you were using just a few minutes ago won’t work anymore. I can assure you of this: You’re going to need a Guide, and you’re going to have to listen closely and follow orders if you are to learn everything that you need to learn out here, and make it through.
Both of these methods lead to the same place, and I can tell you from experience, that’s a good thing. You will be changed while you’re there. Your heart will become more like what it was intended to be all along. You’ll care more, and you’ll see things differently when it’s over. And, you’ll innately know when you walk out that you’ll be back someday, that the work is not complete by any stretch. You’ve been improved, but you’re not perfect.
Like the Israelites, when they took their wilderness journey, you’ll only be able to think about today, and you’ll have just enough sustenance to make it to sundown. You’ll long to go back to Egypt sometimes, and you’ll miss the normalcy of it all. Walking all day in the hot sun and not knowing exactly where you are going is hard. It makes you weary and impatient.
That’s understandable, but here’s the unvarnished truth: The wilderness is the only place this work can be done, this transformational, life changing stuff. You can hear better out there. There are no distractions, so you can heed the directions you are given to a tee, if you only will. Every day will be filled with listening and following. After a while the rhythms start to make sense and you just know that something wonderful is being done, perhaps in small increments, and that you’ll never be the same as you were when you set out from safety all those months or years ago. And, here’s the crazy part: you may even learn to love it as you begin to understand it better.
It’s important to know that everyone goes out into the wilderness at one time or another throughout their lives.
Jesus said that in this world we WILL have trouble. To hear that is a little troubling, isn’t it? No wiggle room. No ‘mights’ or ‘maybes’ – trouble is coming for all of us. But take heart: Many times, that trouble is the very catalyst that leads to a fantastic and life changing trip into the wasteland, the back country filled with danger and adventure and, most importantly what’s best for us.
If we see it all for what it really is, we can easily do the things we have to do to navigate through it successfully: Follow. Keep walking. Keep listening. Stay faithful.
Over these next few weeks I am going to write about this mysterious and very necessary combination of proving ground and operating room. I’ll share my experiences and my own observations of it from firsthand and fifty yard line perspective. I’ve been there. I’ve wept there. I’ve complained there. I’ve eaten the manna that fell every day without recognizing where it came from or how miraculous it was. That God loved me so to take me out there in the first place was oftentimes lost on me as well. He loved me anyway and, even today, He leads on toward home.