As I’ve walked with the Lord, there have been seasons in areas of my life where I spend more time than is comfortable in the wilderness. Praise the Lord our whole being isn’t in the wilderness like the Israelites experienced. It may feel like a total wilderness sometimes, but if we’re honest, most of us have more love, friends, family, belongings, and treasures than the majority and we can think on healthier things than our “this isn’t fair” attitude that steals our joy.
I’ve had a season of wilderness in my call to ministry. Or, so I perceived. In 2009 Brady and I both switched jobs, bought a house, I had a miscarriage, and I had gallbladder surgery.
Brady went from working with his dad and commuting to seminary, to full time college pastor at FBCWF. I went from teaching 6th grade self-contained at a Title 1 school to teaching 6th and 7th grade English/Language Arts at a Christian private school.
The home we bought needed to be gutted (basically) and remodeled. Oh my word at the transformation. My husband is absolutely gifted at developing and carrying out a vision…for life, for ministry, for creative purposes, whatever it is, he’s a genius with vision. We planned, prepared, shopped, stripped wallpaper, sheetrock, stripped popcorn texture, tore down walls, poured concrete into our living room, painted, painted, painted, shopped some more, all new light fixtures, wall plugs, switch plates, brand new hard wood floors (x3 after they came up), repairs, gutted an entire bathroom and did a designer job with the tile, I have gone on and on and I could go on some more! (All of this with help from both sets of parents and college students who are long gone, having moved on with their lives…we’ve been at First long enough to have students who are married, have children, and are in a career!).
After trying to get pregnant for 6 months, we found out we were going to have a baby (or so we THOUGHT). So excited, nervous, overwhelmed. After 6 weeks we found out we were not going to have this precious baby as he/she was already dancing with Jesus. What a blessed baby! Such a sweeter place for a baby, even though I think we have a pretty sweet place, that baby is not hurting or under the weight and oppression of this world that we cannot protect him/her from no matter how we would have tried.
Gallbladder attacks are no joke. Now that I’ve delivered 2 babies, I dare to say those attacks rank right up there in excruciating pain! SO thankful for His mercy and provision to not have those attacks when I was pregnant…no pain meds or surgery for a pregnant momma with gallbladder attacks. He knows best. He has a plan.
While all of this is going on, we are not even into college ministry at FBC for full year yet. I was called to ministry in college and spend the majority of 3 years pouring into other college women. I mean, spending time with 3-4 different girls a day, talking and praying and walking through life with them. It was a joy. It was pleasure. It was sifting and sanctifying for me. It was humbling. It was accountability. Now, I’m married. Now, I’m dealing with very personal, difficult life circumstances. I’m growing leaps and bounds in my understanding of true intimacy with the Lord and growing closer and closer to my husband. But, I felt so far away from my calling.
A new year! 2010! No baby, no gallbladder, and a new beginning! February–pregnant again! Pregnant and happy, but oh so terribly sick. For 9 months. I struggled to be involved, available, and connected with our college students. I’m being vulnerable to share here, that though my heart ached to be a sweet place of support and counsel for them, I struggled with the Lord that it just wasn’t His timing. I pleaded with Him for the ability to be the college pastor’s wife that was all they needed. I even tried to make it work and tried to do and be something that just didn’t fit His timing. Smart. Praise Him that He had women and college women in place to minister to them and love on them and support them. I had to be okay with that. I had to rejoice.
But, I felt like I was in time out. Isn’t it just like our flesh to look over the priceless joys we have (HAVING A BABY!) to the season we are hungry for that is actually just a vision we’re looking at through a past experience where we’re looking through rose colored glasses? That time I had enjoyed pouring into college girls’ lives was wonderful. But it’s in the past. It was hard! My rose colored glasses deceived me. I had forgotten what it was like to bear the burdens of others. I had forgotten the anger I received when a word spoken in truth and love wasn’t taken well. I had forgotten the humility and accountability when I had to lead them in areas where I had previously failed. By His grace, though, I remembered all of that as joy because of the deep relationships I had built and the way the growth permeated my whole being. (Isn’t He wonderful to let us remember all the good from seasons that were hard at the real life moment?)
I wasn’t in a time out. I wasn’t being punished. I was in a wilderness in my ache to minister to college and young married women. I was in a time of growing closer to the Lord. We can all always grow closer to Him and draw nearer to Him. I was in a time of pouring into my husband. Praise the Lord for that time, because at that time, He was the only other person in our home I had to pour into…I was able to grow in that part of my life before having to learn how to pour into him while caring for and discipling children. I was in a time of practically growing. Housekeeping, time managing, planning, and creating an atmosphere specific to our home were all on His agenda for this so-called wilderness where I wasn’t getting to do what I THOUGHT was the most important task of ministry. Oh, but I was ministering. My wise husband told me my ministry was to carrying this baby and ministering to him through our home and relationship. Wow. I had no idea how true that was then and would be in the future as I would be balancing wife and mom.
If you feel like you’re in a time out, talk to Him. Was Jesus always on His throne? He came to this filthy earth and took on flesh to walk among us. We are taken out of our element and we are taken out of seasons where we are the most comfortable and even where we may feel the most successful. This life and ministry aren’t about us “feeling” successful. Tell Him you hurt and ache for whatever it is you really want to be doing. He already knows your heart, the deep longings and the bites of selfishness. In your moments of weeping to Him, listen to what He’s whispering or yelling into your Spirit. There is a place and area in your being that He is refining. Think about all those creative and upcycling ideas you’ve seen on Pinterest or HGTV. That dresser that was sanded down to nothing. It wasn’t pretty. It took a lot of sanding, which was a lot of hard work for the Sander. But, the person sanding poured them self into that hard work, maybe got callouses, got tired and dirty. That’s what the Lord is doing for us in our seasons of wilderness. He knows our heart and our longings. He loves us so much He won’t let us walk into the Promise Land unprepared and not capable. He is equipping you, even in the midst of our selfish flesh who feels as though this season of sitting on the bench feels unfair. It’s actually a time of such closeness and dependence on Him. Soak up the time He’s pouring into you and investing in you. He does have great plans and worthy moments for you coming. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a feel good verse just to memorize in hopes that He will make our future great. It is a specific piece spoken to a hurting, yet hopeful group of people. Look at it’s context.
A letter which Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon, against their prophets that they had there (Jer. 29:1-3), in which letter, 1. He endeavours to reconcile them to their captivity, to be easy under it and to make the best of it, Jer. 29:4-7. 2. He cautions them not to give any credit to their false prophets, who fed them with hopes of a speedy release, Jer. 29:8, 9. 3. He assures them that God would restore them in mercy to their own land again, at the end of 70 years, Jer. 29:10-14. 4. He foretels the destruction of those who yet continued, and that they should be persecuted with one judgment after another, and sent at last into captivity, Jer. 29:15-19. 5. He prophesies the destruction of two of their false prophets that they had in Babylon, that both soothed them up in their sins and set them bad examples (Jer. 29:20-23), and this is the purport of Jeremiah’s letter. II. Here is a letter which Shemaiah, a false prophet in Babylon, wrote to the priests at Jerusalem, to stir them up to persecute Jeremiah (Jer. 29:24-29), and a denunciation of God’s wrath against him for writing such a letter, Jer. 29:30-32. Such struggles as these have there always been between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.—Matthew Henry’s Commentary
I think this is true exhortation for us all. Talk to Him. Trust Him. Seek counsel. Do the next thing even it doesn’t include a glamorous action that will effect the Kingdom in visible ways. You are always effecting Eternity. With every movement and decision. Will your movements and decisions be in line with the Gospel. Choose today what your heart will exude…contentment or dissatisfaction? You’re not in a time out. You’re called to……