Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: Part II

Welcome to the Wilderness Series. You can catch up with Part I here.

Welcome back! So, yesterday we talked about what a wilderness season is and what it looks like. Just to review, by definition, a wilderness season is “a wild and natural area in which few people live. This could come in the form of a transition period, a waiting season or a tragedy, amongst many other scenarios in your life. 

We ended by pointing out that wilderness seasons tend to follow mountaintop experiences. Today, I want to share my personal story with you.  

My wilderness story goes a bit like this:

Several years ago, Jeff + I felt a calling on our life to run for office. It was crazy and we knew it but God was nonetheless calling BOTH of us on this journey. It was insane y’all. The way we saw God show up was just crazy miracle after crazy miracle. Nothing short of awesome. We had NEVER experienced Him so clearly before.

Coming off of the election year, we headed into session which was miraculous and hard all at the same time. Enormous battles were fought throughout that season - some we won, but I'd say more were lost. There were loads of tears but God’s strength and sovereignty provided for both Jeff and our little family during those 8 months that he was away.

That same year, we bought a house, God gave me the dream for Little Branches and took it to places I could never have imagined. The Lord then took me all the way to Africa and gave me a heart for leadership and women - which I couldn’t have made up if I tried. In fact, if you had told me five years ago that I would be sharing my story in front of any group of women, I would have run the other way. He is so good, y’all.

It was a truly an amazing season of our lives. We felt so full and blessed and ridiculously on fire for the Lord.

Unfortunately, we ended that year with a roller coaster of a miscarriage. It was a two month process of doctor appointments that would say, wait and see. The news would go from, “it doesn’t look normal” to “well, your levels look stronger”. Finally, a few days before Christmas, it was over. Satan knew that the climate of hormones, vulnerability and lack of time to process and heal would lead to a perfect storm for an attack on my faith.

We got pregnant almost immediately, which brings a new season all in and of itself and then right on the heels of Landry being born, Jeff entered into another session down in Austin. My closest friends tried extremely hard to walk with me through all of it, but there was only so much they could do. There was nothing that anyone could say that would make it feel better. And the feeling has lingered for years.

But the worst part was that I feared God had forgotten me. I was in the wilderness.

I started to go back and forth between two reasons I was here. Perhaps I did something to get to this place, but then again, maybe God was just done with my purpose. Maybe I had peaked at 33 and He was done. Maybe I had some huge sin in my life that I couldn’t place and this hard season was a punishment of some kind. I would be on my knees begging God to show me any unresolved sin that I needed to clear up with someone and then in the next moment I would be so angry with Him that I didn't even want to hear someone talk about Him.

For the last two years I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of bitterness, forgiveness, seeking God and not getting direction but moving forward in things just because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do. That is key - moving forward just because I felt like it is what I was expected to do. For goodness sakes, I couldn't just be still for two years.... could I?

But a few weeks ago, when I finally determined to sit still before the Lord and actually LISTEN, He rocked my wilderness journey like a freight train coming through in the middle of the night.

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord,
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! (Isaiah 30:1-2)
Do you see what He’s saying here? The Israelites who have been SAVED and brought into the promised land, keep turning back to Egypt for protection. They keep thinking that Pharaoh can protect them better than God can. They take their eyes of God and look around for something tangible to hold on to.

And does anyone else identify with this stuff about executing a plan that isn't His? Anybody?

When I started to let this sink in, I thought.... whoa, God. Keep talking.

I keep going back to what WAS working, hoping to MAKE. IT. WORK again. I proceed back to Egypt without even consulting Him. Why? Because it is hard to wait on His answer, y’all! And, if I’m being honest, because I want the comforts that the Egypt in my life promises to provide.

It sure seems like Egypt would have looked more promising than a wilderness journey where they had to set up and take down camp for years on end. They knew what was in Egypt, but didn’t know what was up ahead. 

Don’t you see? They weren’t trusting Him to provide for their needs AND their dreams. We do that too.

Going back to what we know can become an idol in our life, amen? What might this look like in your life? What do you keep running back to in order to avoid your wilderness? Is it a relationship that you shouldn’t be pursuing, but is easy? Maybe it’s television shows or movies that you shouldn’t be watching, but have become an escape for you? Maybe it’s an addiction to food or alcohol? Maybe it’s social media? Maybe it’s even service?

There are so many things that aren’t inherently bad, but become forms of oppression when we use them as a means of escape instead of pressing into the present that we find ourselves in. Instead of trusting God to carry us through all of the hard feelings and scary decisions we might have to make, we do an about face and take ourselves out of the race all together.

In all of my humanness - when I put myself in their shoes - I completely understand why they might trust in Pharaoh. The horrid conditions in their memories had worn off - perhaps with the previous generation. They’re thinking “was it so bad there?” And in all honesty, they can physically see the ways in which Pharaoh would be protecting them, right? Chariots, horses, kings men, cities that were built of more than tents.  

But do you see what ISN’T happening when they turn around and look to Egypt? Not only are they remembering the past better than it actually was, they are also forgetting all of the miraculous things that God did in order to deliver them out of the hand of Pharaoh and into the promised land aren't they?

We do the same thing!

I happen to do this all the time. I turn around and look to our life before politics entered the scene and it becomes very easy for me to covet that. I romanticize the comfortable life we had been living before God jumped in and started to provide for us what we couldn't have possibly known we needed in the first place. 

But God will soon tell us in this passage that He HAS to break us in order for us to experience Him more!

So, the question today is, what is your Egypt? Mine is comfort that He has called me out of and success that He has specifically told me not to chase after.  Not even bad things, but things that had become a life of bondage for me. Your Egypt doesn't necessarily have to be a life of slavery or even sin, but it could simply represent a season of your life that God has determined is over for you. He has called you forward, but you keep looking back and longing for it anyway. 

What I didn't see throughout my time in the wilderness is that God has so much more that He wants to give me, show me and teach me. But I was prohibiting Him from doing that because instead of longing for Him, I longed for comfort. What comforts does He need to break you of today? I pray that He specifically shows you today, like He has for me, all that is in need of breaking so we can pursue hard after Him alone.

Because after all of this, that is the whole point of the wilderness... to see Him more clearly and depend on Him fully. But we can't do that if we keep running backward! Onward, we go!

Stay tuned - because tomorrow we get to the really good part, y'all!

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