"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her." Hosea 2:14 NKJV
While listening to the testimony of Jefferson Bethke, I was reminded of a verse in Hosea chapter two that I had read before, "Behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness." My mind immediately went to my nights alone outside with God in the darkness. The wilderness can symbolize a place of wondering, a place of darkness, a place of pain. Webster's Dictionary defines it as a region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, an area essentially undisturbed by human activity, an empty or pathless area, or a bewildering situation.
I can identify with this verse because I know what it feels like to be led into a bewildering situation, my personal wilderness. Here in my wilderness I feel that it s uninhabited by other humans. I know the feeling of aloneness that the wilderness brings. As for a pathless area, the wilderness can definitely engulf you and make you feel as though there is no path that leads out of it.
So why would God purposely lead someone into the wilderness? Well, the rest of the verse says that He will bring her into the wilderness to speak comfort to her. But why would God choose an uncultivated, uninhabited place to bring comfort? Why would He take you to a pathless area to show you comfort?
Well, if you're a girl who carries a backpack instead of a purse, a girl who owns no makeup, and a girl whose idea of fixing her hair involves a ponytail, then you might see the wilderness differently. There is a beauty found only in the wilderness.
There are billions of stars in the sky, and yet many people never see them. They are there all the time, but most people never notice their beauty. During the day the brightness of the sun hides them They're there just like they are at night, but you can't see them. Even at dusk only the brightest ones can be seen. To really see them you have to wait until full darkness had come, and even then you must be still and linger for awhile. Then you start to see them, and the longer you look the more that you will see.
You see, there are some things you can only see in the dark. Light is beautiful. It symbolizes God and all that is good. Light brings sunshine and happiness, clarity and serenity. But if you never experience darkness, you miss the beauty of the stars. There are things you can only see in the dark. Sometimes God brings us to darkness, to the wilderness so that He can show us what we miss in the light. He leads us to an uninhabited area, undisturbed by human activity, so that when we get still and look long enough, He gets to show us His stars.. It is there in the wilderness that He speaks comfort. Even while in the middle of a bewildering situation, He can cause us to be still long enough to catch a glimpse of those glimmering lights strewn against the canvas of a dark sky. The longer we sit quietly with Him in the darkness, the more stars we begin to see and the comfort comes. In the dark stillness of night in the middle of the wilderness, He speaks comfort in a way that we miss in the light. There is an intimacy with God that only comes in the wilderness.
Tomorrow is the first day of March. The majority of events that have proved themselves to be life-changing for me have occurred in the month of March. When I was fifteen, my uncle passed away in March at the age of 33. My life was never the same. Years later my aunt, his sister, passed away as well. Last March was no different. Last March my life changed forever. On March 27, 2013, I lost my grandfather. He loved me unlike anyone else. I wasn't prepared for the hole that his absence would leave in my heart.
But perhaps the biggest change in my life occurred on March 18. 2013. I have heard God speak to me in many different ways, but never really audibly in a dream. I dreamed I was with Stephen and the kids in a tall building and there had been an earthquake. Most of the building had fallen away and we were on an upper floor with only a small section of a hallway to walk on or you would fall to your death. All the doors were locked, but there was a hallway a few feet away that led to safety. We found a ladder to stretch across a missing section of hallway and put a board on it, and Stephen got across and then I sent the kids. They ran ahead to get help and I told them I would follow. As they went out of sight, the ladder fell. I was left standing in a locked doorway clinging to the door facing and was praying. In my dream, God told me to let go of the door facing. I was crying and told Him I would fall. He answered, "Yes, for a few minutes, but then I will catch you." I reminded Him that I can ride any roller coaster, but that I hate free fall. He simply stated, " I know that. That's why I need you to trust Me enough to let go." I let go of the door facing and could feel myself falling and then I stopped in midair landing on a mattress. I woke up and my heart was beating out of my chest.
At the time I thought the dream was to tell me not to worry about some issues we were having with some real estate. Little did I know, but that wasn't it at all. God was getting me ready to learn how to let go and trust Him completely. The year that has followed that dream has been more life-changing for me that any other time of my life. God set me on a path to learning that loving Him wasn't safe and following Him wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. In the last twelve months, I have faced many things. I'm not talking about normal everyday issues like family squabbles and finances. I faced mountains and heart breaking moments that made me forget how to breathe. In the last year, I went from clinging in desperation to door facings, like my positions and my personal strengths to holding absolutely nothing and falling helplessly and fearfully into the hand of God.
As March returns tomorrow, I find myself a new creation. I no longer bother to reach for the door facing or any other person or thing. I have learned not only to let go, but to willingly jump when God calls me to do so. The experiences of the last year brought me pain, sorrow, and extraordinary loss. But let me assure you that the experiences of the last year also brought me unspeakable joy and a stronger desire to truly surrender my life to God. There is no joy that compares to when you find yourself in the deepest darkest of pits surrounded by your worst fears having become your reality, and quietly you hear His voice whispering in the darkness that He hasn't left you, and to lift your head for your Father is waiting to hold your heart and dry your tears.
And so I prepare to march boldly into this month of March, knowing that the God who created everything knows my heart and wishes to heal the broken places. I believe that the experiences that left me broken in the last twelve months, will be the very experiences that prepare me for something beautiful in the next twelve months. God had a lesson for me. He wanted to teach me to free fall. Now that I have learned to trust His hand, I truly believe my next lesson will not be how to fall, but how to soar.
The last seven weeks of my life have been tough. I have felt physical pain, defeat, frustration, and loneliness. Yet I have also felt unspeakable joy, unexplainable peace, and incredibly close to God.
I just finished a Bible study tonight that I was doing with a friend. I don't know that I was successful in reaching my initial goals for the Bible study, but I did grow in my walk with God in ways that I never imagined when I agreed to start the study. I wasn't expecting this study to be the kind of study in which you find yourself having your life turned completely upside down. It wasn't even that kind of Bible study. But here I am....changed. I barely recognize that girl who started that study the last week of July. She is different.
I won't go into all the details, but as the weeks pass you will see them start to emerge. In the past few weeks, I have talked with God. Not audible dialog, but dialog none the less. He has whispered in my ear more than once in the last few weeks. He has stripped me of all the props I used to hold myself up, and has let me learn to free fall...right into His arms. He has reminded of things that I had almost forgotten. He has sent me signs that let me know He is there.
I am learning to let go and trust Him. In our search for a new church home, I have tried to be quiet. I have tried to listen to Him, and to let my husband be our spiritual leader. I have tried to let my kids help to lead rather than be led. I will confess that I despise the process of looking for a church. When I was eight or nine, my entire family left the only church I had ever known and began the painful process of searching for a new home. I dreaded Sunday mornings because I always was the one who went to Sunday School alone with strangers. I couldn't understand why we had to make this change.
Yesterday we visited that church I left when I was eight or nine, for the second time this month. Yesterday morning my husband sang in the choir. I wanted to be up there too, but I wouldn't go. It's too hard for a broken heart to grab on to something too soon. The fear is too much. But last night I watched as people filed into the choir. I watched the song leader pick up the red church hymnal (one of the requirements a church must have according to my kids). I watched my husband stand up to go to the choir. It was too much. I was up before I knew it and headed for the choir.
First came page 34. Then page 4. And then page 76...Jesus Spoke to Me. Now, I'm not the best singer. I don't pretend to be. But I will say that I have learned how to carry alto pretty good on page 76 if need be. Last night I sang it, but not like I usually would. I don't know how loud I was singing, or if anyone could even hear me because my heart was beating so hard in my chest. And from the direction of the empty chair to my right, I heard that whisper again. A whisper, and yet so loud it was deafening. "Michelle, I told you not to be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you. I
will help you. I am holding you with the right hand of my righteousness."
There is was...my favorite verse, Isaiah 41:10. But it wasn't on a page in my Bible. He was pausing again for me. Pausing just for a minute to whisper a sweet peaceful reminder in my ear. "Michelle, you silly girl. You only missed two weeks. Here you stand with a red book in your hands in the alto section of the choir. My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways. The next time I tell you to jump, just do it. Haven't you learned by now that no one loves you as much as I do? Haven't you learned that you may fall, but you are never out of the reach of My hand?"