For those who don’t know, I am approaching my first big wilderness experience. I will be leaving home to reside in another country for almost half of a year. This wilderness experience will be an interesting one as the idea of being alone with God is a new idea within itself. I will admit my hesitation about the trip when I first began to think about those who I will miss the most and the comfort zone I will be leaving. There is a bigger mission to a wilderness experience than just leaving and saying goodbye, you also get a chance to enter and say hello. God reassured me that this time away will be a grooming process and is vital for me to come back home stronger than I left. Believing the truth of God and the many works He wants to do with and through me is enough for me to shake my fears about leaving. His never-ending truth makes me want to never leave the path where He hides me under His wing (Psalm 91:4) while He chisels and molds me as He finds fit (Isaiah 64:8). This wilderness experience will certainly not be entirely easy as God has been reminding me that even Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:1).
I want to share some of the emotional aspects of preparing for my wilderness experience. I am sitting here, face covered with tears, wondering how I asked God for this blessing then became upset when He gave it to me. I have always loved traveling so the opportunity to study abroad was something I have always wanted to do even before college. As shared a bit in I am Going To Be A Dermatologist, at one point my grades had dropped so low that I basically gave up hope of spending a semester anywhere other than at my home institution. Well God had different plans. Going against my own logic and reasoning, I went to the study abroad office and within minutes I had gotten accepted into a program with scholarship and an offer for them to pay for me to visit another country of my choice, free of charge. I couldn’t get out of the study abroad office fast enough to share my joy with family and close friends. I cannot remember the last time I had been that excited but before I knew it I found myself sad, wondering if I had made a mistake by accepting the offer. When I got back to my suite my first questions to God were, “How can I leave those I have grown to love? Who will I have to fellowship with wayyy over there?” Then God responded, “I have My people everywhere.” Once again, I know nothing but God knows everything.
After that conversation with God I became much more confident regarding the trip. I knew it would be intimate time spent with Him and that He is generous enough to allow me to gain college credits along the way. But starting around December 2011, I reluctantly began to count down the days until I left the country trying to pretend that I wasn’t mad at God. I think this was the first time I have been really mad at God and at the same time I became frustrated with myself for being mad at God. How could I be upset with God for giving me what He knows is best and secondly, what I had asked for in the first place? Aside from the excitement of seeing new areas of the world I was extremely saddened by the idea that I would be leaving those who I had grown to love so dearly. In the past I felt like everyone I loved left me, like nothing good would remain in my life. But with this experience I was even more upset because I felt like this time, for the first time in my life, I was leaving them. I knew that people would leave on their own terms and timing but I felt like since this time it was me, it was my fault for the separation. I was angry because I felt like I was the reason for my own pain but once God took over and became the event planner, I wanted to point the finger at Him.
God allowed me to have bit of a pity party for a while but then He made it clear that I could serve Him or not. He is such an understanding God. He knew the hurt I was feeling and gave me time to get it out of my system while still keeping me in check and letting me know when enough was enough. I began to take things a little far as I began to try to find ways to get out of leaving. But when God stated that I could miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime because of immaturity and fear, I was desperate for Him to take me out of my state of confusion. Or to take the state of confusion out of me. The closer I was getting to leaving Atlanta to go to Philly, the more frequently I found myself crying, kicking, and screaming for God to not make me go. I know this sounds more like going to jail than time spent in the Lord but this is exactly how I felt. I was feeling pressure about Europe and even going to Philly to face all types of hurt, pain, and spiritual anguish, all in the same condition I left them, if not worse. I will be honest, I still find myself crying at least once a day as I count down the days until I leave. The thought of my father trying to squeeze as many activities in one day brings tears to my eyes. Hearing my mother asking me to please remain in contact with her makes it hard for me to even respond a simple, “Okay.” My little brother asking me daily which day I come back makes me want to take him with me. Even as I communicate with my father/mother/siblings-in-Christ, I hate to have to say goodbye, or even see you later. I spent a lot of time with this family within the past year and I have been running from the fact that I will miss a sweet 16 birthday party, piano lessons, late nights of playing games on the iPad, and occasional games of H.O.R.S.E. on the basketball court with my siblings–just to name a few. I had gotten so comfortable with being able to run upstairs to my mother-in-Christ’s room to talk/confide/cry/laugh/ask about whatever was on my mind or heart. I didn’t want to accept that for the next 5 months I won’t be able to wait for my father-in-Christ to come home and share any words of wisdom and/or encouragement the Lord had put on his heart that day. God wouldn’t call me to leave all of this love would He? I mean once I truly found love and joy would I really have to leave it all behind, even for the moment?
If I want to serve the one true living God then yes, yes I would.
I have chosen to say yes. I am ready for this wilderness experience. Everything including my wants, desires, fears etc. needs to come into subjection under His feet. Once God began to eliminate most of my tears, mixed emotions, and selfish thinking I was able to see His true mission. I had to let go of the fear of something happening to my father, mother, brother, and even grandparents while I was gone. I began to question who would help them? Who would they call to pray with them? Then God quickly responded, “You are worrying about all of the wrong things. Although they are your relatives, they are My children first. I will deal with them on My own terms the same way I deal with you. You are not anyone’s Superwoman and you aren’t God. Remain focused on what I have you doing and be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” God is a mighty God and sometimes He has to remind us of our role in His kingdom. My family has to know God for themselves, not through me. I never want my relationship with anyone to become an idol nor do I wish to ever be a distraction. So I let those worries go but then a new gang of concerns began to creep up as they followed the lead of their old buddy, spirit of rejection. I started to worry about my family-in-Christ forgetting about me or replacing me with someone else. What if I came back to America and they completely lost interest in wanting to spend time with me? What if I reached out to them while in Europe but they became uninterested in conversing with me? Would I miss out on priceless moments at my home college? Would my suitemates like their new suitemate better than they liked me? That stuff sounds silly and very childish but a spirit of rejection can present such lies and worries to a person bound by it. As restated by my mother-in-Christ, God first told me that He is the source of the joy in my life. If everything in America changes I need to find comfort in the fact that He won’t. I need to stand on the Word that states when mothers and fathers forsake their children that God will adopt them (Psalm 27:10). It is dangerous territory to put the mission of God on hold to savor moments with man. We serve a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and we need to be willing to stand alone with Him if He leads us to.
About a month ago, one night as I sat on the bed talking to God, He gave me more understanding. I whispered to God in the dark room with only an ounce of light from my iPod, “Wait… So God you want me to grow up?” Absolutely! God wants me to grow! He wants you to grow! He wants His people to grow! God wants me to experience more deliverance! God wants me to share the Gospel! That is what I need to focus on and when I find myself sad, crying, feeling indifferent, I say, “But Father Your will be done.” When my parents-in-Christ drove me to the airport to come to Philly I made it a focus to never again say, “But God no….” and instead “Your will. Your plan. Your purpose. Your mission. Your kingdom.” God knows my heart and He knows how badly my flesh wants to stay but He and I both also know that His plan is best for me. I am sure He has more planned for me than my tiny brain can even imagine right now. I know at the very least that He means for me to know, love, and seek refuge in Him more. As my mother-in-Christ would probably say, “My training wheels need to fall off.” I would hate for any help God has given me to become an idol to me. I would hate to remain comfortable in my current spiritual state. And most importantly, I would hate to not fulfill the plans God has for my life. This is an exciting time in my life and one that I should be very grateful for. God cares for me so much that He is willing to take me away from everyone and everything I am familiar with so that my dependency on Him may increase. With about a 6 hour time difference and lack of phone usage I will be encouraged to come before the Lord rather than to call/text/email a family member or friend. I am sure God will continue to give me help but I will only contact others as He permits. If I thought I was happy and overflowing with love before I can only imagine what God has planned for our personal time. If all of the love, joy, compassion, understanding etc. expressed to me through His people is enough to make me sing songs of praise, how much more fulfilling will it be to experience such intimacy with the Source?
Late last year God began to show me that I was treating Him more like a business partner than like a Groom. God doesn’t want me to know about religion, He wants me to know Him. God doesn’t want me to hear about deliverance, He wants me to experience it. God doesn’t want me to daydream about love, He wants me to be drenched in it. God doesn’t want me to be bound by rejection, He wants me to be set free from it. God doesn’t want me to engage in acts of sexual immorality, He wants me to yield my instruments unto Him. God doesn’t want me to witness my family/friends/strangers live lives of oppression caused by demons, He wants to use me to cast them out. God doesn’t want me to live a life by the unrighteous standards of the world, He wants me to live by the confidence and power found in Him.
So with all of this I am willing to follow the Lord blindfolded, nervous, anxious, uncertain, eager, heart-broken, and prayerful…as long as He leads.
Even when the path is narrow and tight I will be encouraged because I know His path is narrow (Matthew 7:14).
Even if the road seems uncertain and rugged, I will rest assured that He knows the path of life (Psalm 16:11).
I am unsure of the paths ahead of me, but I am willing to take the hand of God and follow Him. My sentiments are best captured by Matthew 26:42 (NIV): “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” If Jesus humbled Himself and chose the Father’s will over His own, then I too should do the same. I know nothing but the Lord knows everything. If the Lord has a special mission in Europe how dear I go against the plans of God? I could be prolonging the deliverance from the exact sin which has bound me and my ancestors for thousands of years by focusing on self. Side Note: The last sentence makes me question if it is even me who doesn’t want to go. Or rather if there is something in me that doesn’t want to see the light that radiates from the face of God. Demons tremble at the name of Jesus (James 2:19) and with that they will surely have to go! I once stated that I give all of my wants and desires to God so that He may do as He sees fit. God has a sense of humor as He is currently putting that very statement to the test. With my eyes closed as tightly as a toddler at their second birthday party blowing out the candles on their cake, I am reaching out my little hand to meet the hand of my Groom as He takes me to safety and adopts me into His royalty.
How great is the God we serve? There is obviously an importance in spending time in the wilderness with God as He led His people, the Israelites, through such an experience. Everyone’s wilderness experience is different but we each need to seek to have one. I know people who have had a wilderness experience in their home or even in a new city or state. I even had a smaller wilderness experience my last semester at school. I still attended my home college but God called me to drown to the world as He led me to delete my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr accounts, deactivate an email account, and even change my phone number. Although this wasn’t as big as leaving the country for almost half of a year, He was preparing me for the moment that I would. Be willing to say yes to God. He wants the best for me, you, and the rest of His children. I leave January 21st, 2012 to begin a new chapter in my walk with Him. I am nervous, sad, and even a little anxious but I will not walk by sight but by faith and not by my power or authority but by His. So with all of this I shared I say thank you God. Thank you for doing for me what I don’t have the wisdom or strength to do for myself. As I embark on this current wilderness experience I seek to be after the heart of God, to be open to being cleansed and purged from all unclean spirits, and to find comfort in the fact that although I am nobody or nothing, He is everything. He has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I don’t know what any month, week, or even second will entail while I am in Europe but He says that He knows the plans He has for us. So excuse me as I prepare to take my very first step into the wilderness. My Groom has been waiting for me. And for anyone who is reading this, don’t feel like you can’t relate to having a wilderness experience as He may be waiting for you too. Open up your heart and tell the Lord yes.