Friday, October 10, 2014

Wilderness Survival Guide (I)

"Wherever you are be all there." -Jim Elliot

"To get lost is to find the way." -African Proverb

If you haven't read my blog or sat down for coffee with me as of late, let me quickly catch you up on my life. I'll keep it simple. Actually I can sum it up with one word.


That's right friends. Recently I left my job that I LOVED and my place on a ministry team in Seattle and moved back to my small town home in Ohio. Ironically (or not) I landed back in the midwest just in time for autumn...THE  quintessential picture of transition. The ONE season of change in life that we all welcome and adore. I must say that as much as I struggle with embracing a small town, fall is just not the same anywhere else and so I am certainly soaking that up.

Gosh. I always get off topic when I start talking about fall...even when it somehow relates to what I am actually writing about..which is the point...I somehow almost always find a way to make it relate to what I am talking about...

Okay. Focusing....n o w.

SO. As I was saying. I have recently found myself smack dab in the middle of one giant transition. Now. Transition can look a couple of different ways depending on the nature of each one. But usually, for one reason or another, it tends to be overwhelming and a tad (or more) confusing.

Sometimes transition happens quickly. The next step is all lined up and waiting. And in those cases it requires a delicate balance of tying up lose ends in the present while thinking ahead to the future and somehow dealing with all of the parts somewhere in the middle of those two places. And then in other cases, transition happens gradually and walking away comes before there is really any place to walk to. And for a while you sort of just wander.

The latter is where I find myself currently.

I have done a lot of crazy things through the years. Taken a lot of crazy risks. Jumped off a lot of preverbal cliffs blindfolded. But honestly, I have never been more afraid or insecure than I was on that red eye flight from Seattle, Washington to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania via Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Why you might ask?

I mean it's really rather ironic when I pause to think about it. For once I was returning to a sort of base. This safe, familiar place. But somehow even in comparison to all of the places that were once complete mysteries and unknowns, this season felt more uncertain than any other.

This season and this place I decided was my wilderness call. 

What exactly do I mean by a wilderness call you might ask? Well, growing up in the Church, and being a pastor and all, I am referring to the many examples throughout Biblical scripture when God calls His servants out into the wilderness. He called Abraham to wander through the wilderness while He led him to the next step (and let me add that He let Abraham in on NOTHING), He called the entire nation of Israel out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness for FORTY years, He even called Jesus out into the wilderness for a time of solitude and preparation before He began His public ministry.

Time and time again we see the wilderness referenced and revisited throughout scripture. Different people from different places and in many different generations. In each case, the purpose of the call is unique, but always ALWAYS it is to get people to a place of full trust and reliance on God and to bring them away from distractions so that He can shape them and prepare them for whatever is coming after the wilderness.

Maybe my wilderness looks a little bit different, but from where I am standing I can tell you that it is most certainly a wilderness. I've never been in the "wilderness" before. This is the first time that Jesus has led me out here...BUT in looking through scripture, I can clearly see that there are several different ways to react now that I have come to and finally realized where I am.

This little mini series (Wilderness Survival Guide) will simply be me walking you, my friends, through my personal wilderness call and season. I think inevitably at some point in life we will all face one, so I figured that I might as well share some survival tips.

Because the truth is that we have a choice in the wilderness. We always have a choice. We can realize where we are and start fighting from the get go. We can whine and complain and grumble and insist on making and finding our own way out of this deserted, awful, forsaken place ASAP. That is what I would call the Israel approach. OR. We can take the Jesus way of it (which is always a safe bet) and immediately start looking for and recognizing God in the wilderness.

Because He is most certainly there. I can tell you...I am in the middle of the wilderness (well at least i think it's the middle but I can't really say because I have no idea how to find my way around this place) and GOD IS HERE. It may feel empty and it may feel far from "home" and it may seem like I am walking in circles and I am hot and tired and empty and hungry all the while that I am wandering around aimlessly...but God can often be found in wilderness places more than any other. This I know to be true.

So for now my mantra (I may have mentioned it before, but it will be something I return to a lot for the next few weeks) is "DON'T BE ISRAEL."

I don't want to be the person that is so busy grumbling and being angry and bitter about where God has brought me, that I completely miss why it is He brought me here and what it is He wants to do and say while we are here. I don't want to finally arrive at wherever the next place or season is and wish that I would have spent more time being alone with God in wide open spaces allowing him to pour into me and prepare me for whatever He had for me after.

The wilderness is a lovely place full of rich, colorful beauty beyond the brown landscape and there are springs of wisdom and life beneath all of that dust. We just have to be willing to look a little harder and embrace the barren empty place for exactly what it is. Let's do that together. Let's take the Jesus approach to the wilderness and let's not just survive it, let's embrace it and thrive in it!

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