Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Destination: "Backwoods Sinai"

Blogging is an emotional act for me, and though the intervening months have been filled with many good things & experiences, emotionally, I am very raw. So raw, that blogging has felt more like pouring alcohol on a cut than a cathartic experience.

But last night, I think I understood something new, something related to my emotional state. And it is something worth blogging.

I have struggled for at least a year with something I've called 'stirred waters', a longing for what I don't have that feels more awakened from the outside than from the inside. And I often--and increasingly--see my life as just being frittered away, wasted, empty of meaning. I'm not one given to self-reflection or moroseness, which makes these intertwined perceptions all the more troubling.

So I've begun to ponder: why would I feel my life is wasted, wanting? Obviously, I have some kind of unmet expectation. But what?

I grew up believing my life would just be poured out for Jesus, willingly given in the hard places doing the hard things for the glory of my great Savior. I said, "Yes," early and I wanted it badly. Later, I realized that I expected (just by the nature of life's progressions) to marry, to have children. Since I'm not the meta-cognitive type, I never really thought about how these would mix.

But apparently, I reached an unrealized expectation in the midst of these thoughts. Both ministry and marriage were good, but I could see how one might exclude the other. That was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Use me up, Lord, either in the crazy extreme ministry I long for, or in the sacrificial offering to the future that a family is. But use me up.

And last night, as I realized that this was my expectation, it became clear to me why I was so haunted now. Because now--in the life I live today--I have neither. I am neither being used up in ministry, nor am I pouring myself out into the lives of a spouse and children.

I am simply sitting in "backwoods Sinai."

Moses spent so much of his life waiting, yet having already been told He was THE one to deliver Israel (see Acts 7:25). Forty years seems like a long time to be in such a place as backwoods Sinai, especially for someone coming from palatial Egypt.

But there was a reason he was there. We tend to jump to the spiritual reason: he was there to be humbled. While true, and while that was a huge success (see Numbers 12:3), it isn't the reason I was thinking of. He was there because he was a fugitive, a murderer. He had done something to place him there.

So last night, I found myself asking the ungracious and unflattering question: What did I do? Why have I been sentenced to backwoods Sinai?

Knowing this story, and feeling paralleled to it, I should feel hopeful. I mean, in the fullness of time, God showed him His glory (and he lived!). He powerfully and perfectly used this man to do things which had never been done before (or since!). And talk about a man 'poured out'!

But the truth is, right now, I just feel the grime of the dust and the monotony of the thankless shepherding. It doesn't feel preparatory; it feels stagnant.

I know the truths and the platitudes.

*God's plans for us are good, and perfect, and loving.

*And I know that in God's economy, nothing is wasted.

*I know that my feelings aren't always true reflectors of reality.

*I know I don't have to understand, that I don't even have a right to understand.

*I know, I know, I know.

But I'm still sitting in backwoods Sinai. I'm tired and bored and grimy.

And I don't know why I'm here.

In a few minutes or days, I'll relax into the place of trust in my Savior's perfect plan. After all, my life is His, and if He wants to play it out in backwoods Sinai for the rest of my days, it is His right to do so. As a servant, I have no claim on how my days are spent. And His goodness causes me not to despair. His love gives us so much more than we ever, ever, ever deserve.

But today, I find myself with empty hands in a squalid place spinning my wheels. And I don't understand.

Just speaking this moment's truth,


"O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. They keep saying to me, 'Where is the word of the LORD? Let it now be fulfilled!' I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair. What passes my lips is open before you. Do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster." --Jeremiah 17:13-17


ShalomSeeker said...

And then, this hymn came on:

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

*sigh* He does love me so.

Jerry said...


Allison said...

I know it's not the same ... but I identify with you. There are hard days sometimes, aren't there? I'm thankful that we can "relax into the place of trust" again. I'm grateful, too, for God's patience and gentle love--even when we long to understand His mind--an understanding we aren't owed. He's gracious and persistent in His love, and what a gift that is.

Esther said...

I can totally relate to these feelings -- even though I'm not exactly where you are. I know the truths, but they are of no comfort right now. I don't get it either. And sometimes I'm just so weary... Hugs to you, friend. ♥

Gwen Toliver said...

Thanks for this very honest post, Jomona. You have me thinking... :)