Whilst my writer friend/college roomie/shopping buddy extraordinare was visiting us at the new house, we talked long and hard about all of the big scary life things – our worst fears, our lofty dreams, the spiritual terrain of our lives. After a nourishing and honest sermon about what it looks like to walk through wilderness (listen to the podcast here), we shared wine flights and opened up about our very own desert places and what it looked and felt like and where we did or didn’t see God moving. The thing about having a friend who has seen you through a wilderness or two is that they just get it – they know what you look like in a joyous season of harvest and they’ve seen you in the lowest spaces, craving spiritual milk but coming up empty. Amanda has seen me everywhere and in between, and when she walked through the wilderness, I was there, too. She writes about it all beautifully on her blog (which you can find here), and she talks about it at coffee shops and Paneras across the east coast.
“Tell you story, dear sister.”
And so, here’s a little about my wilderness.
If we’re going off of loose definitions here, let’s call the wilderness the area that we journey as our lives weave in and out of fertile valleys. The wilderness, for me, was a place of heartbreak and confusion and general frustration. It’s the time where I felt far from the Lord, not for lack of church attendance but because I was convinced He had stopped fighting for me. My wilderness spanned the greater space of a year, and it’s in that raw and tumultuous desert that we built our marriage. I’ve got a big soft spot for that arid space, and tears and prayers and hope for anyone currently dwelling there.
My extraordinarily high hopes fell flat in that wilderness, and our tiny apartment was filled with unmet expectations. We were newly married and heartbroken over everything our lives weren’t. What was surely a formula for happiness (young newlyweds + adorable mountain town + a paid-for education) was instead a dry landscape of disappointment. Living together wasn’t easy. We missed our college community terribly. Graduate school was not where I wanted to be.
When the arguments stopped and the silence remained, our fear whispered.
Had God forgotten us?
In a time where I imagined we would thrive, we instead merely survived. While we managed to find good friends and plenty of laughter in that wilderness, we both knew what it looked like to bear fruit and live joyfully, and we were so far from those fertile lands. Our first anniversary felt like the biggest finish line I’d ever run through. We set our sights on Baltimore and didn’t look back. And when we suddenly walked out of that wilderness and into the wilds of Charm City, we found more oxygen and stronger limbs than we had before. A sense of lightness and belonging enveloped us, along with an incredible community of people, and the silence was broken. We could see and hear and feel God moving in our lives. And of course, he was there all along. While the wilderness felt isolating and infuriating, God was there at every trial, quietly strengthening and refining us. We were never broken, not once. We remained, albeit at a distance, and He remained with us.
So, dear friend, rest assured that you are not alone in your wilderness. There is hope, and there will be beauty. Tell your story and let someone walk alongside you.
Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.