Note: This is post #3 of My Journey into the Rubble series.
About a year after accepting Jesus as my Savior, I entered a spiritual desert. Similar to the children of Israel shortly after experiencing their spectacular deliverance from bondage in Egypt, I was ready to run back to my familiar past and slavery to sin.
The small church I attended then was built on a wobbly scriptural foundation at best, though I didn’t know it at the time. And while I don’t blame the church for my failure and four-year period (give or take) of wilderness wanderings, the church’s doctrinal instability and overall flakiness certainly didn’t help me as a new believer.
I lacked godly discipleship, mentoring, and a solid foundation in the Word on which to start my walk with Christ, and this easily led me into deception, sin, and a prolonged backslidden condition.
The Things We Don’t Speak Of
I know I’m forgiven for all my sins and offenses, including those committed in the wilderness. Once I confessed and turned away, they were covered by the blood of my precious Jesus. I mention them only because they were an important part of my journey.
Now, take it easy. Chillax. I’m not going to spill the juicy scoop version of my testimony. My husband likes to call our “seasons of sin,” which we experienced separately before we met, “the things we don’t speak of.” Thus, in wifely respect, I’ll let those nitty-gritty particulars of my wilderness wanderings remain “the things I don’t write of” as well.
And aren’t you thankful our Lord never brings them up again, either?
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, NLT)
But, I will tell you why these wayward days were important. Eventually, I came to realize that all of my human efforts toward holiness were futile. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s power working in me, I could do nothing to become more like Jesus. I saw that in and of myself, I was completely powerless over sin. That’s still true today, and I needed to understand that fact.
Additionally, I saw that following my own plan was unsatisfying and resulted in failure. My attempts at achieving success led to a dead end. What I thought would make me happy, instead led me down a path of emptiness and heartache.
The Lord was working in my life to direct me back, yes, even force me back to his will. So far in my life I’ve been through three major times of brokenness—once on the mission field, which I’ll talk about in a future post, and twice during my wilderness wanderings.
Looking back I see that times of loneliness and brokenness have cut a pathway in my life leading to a closer, more intimate friendship with Jesus. Today I’m grateful for those still, silent moments of isolation, because without them I would not know the comfort and personal connection I now have with God.
The first wilderness brokenness was a brokenness of heart, which led me back to the Lord. Alone and grieving one night, the Spirit of God inside responded to my loss. I was stunned when I began to feel a tangible, physical comfort from the Lord as he wrapped his loving arms around me and assured me I was not alone.
The next morning, a Sunday, I was home scrubbing the bathtub. My two roommates had just moved out and the large duplex I rented needed some serious cleaning. I flipped on the Christian radio station, grabbed the scrubbing bubbles, and attacked the tile and grout.
When the music portion of the program ended, Dr. Charles Stanley‘s smooth Southern Baptist drawl began to echo off the tile walls, enter my ears, and travel deep into my Spirit. Today, I don’t remember what he said, but it impacted me profoundly. I knew God was speaking to me.
So much more than that bathtub, I needed to be washed clean.
I couldn’t wait for the week to pass so I could get back to church. I was determined to rededicate my life to the Lord publicly. My sister and her husband had been attending a non-denominational church very close to my home, so I decided to meet them there. My wilderness wanderings were over. I plunged into fellowship and got involved with the singles ministry, which, incidentally, was a whole different wilderness experience—a jungle, to be exact.
Eventually, I learned to maneuver through the challenges and tangles of single adult ministry. In this church I began to grow in my relationship with Christ though discipleship, godly support and friendship, and most importantly, solid Bible teaching.
My feet were almost back on the road to the rubble, but I had one last little detour to make. And, surprise! It involved a nine-month stint in Cosmetology school and a short-lived career as a hair stylist. Are you starting to notice a common “strand” weaving through this journey? It’s mah hayer! (Say it with your best southern drawl.)
We’ll come to my second breaking point, a physical one, in the next post. In the meantime, I’d guess I’m not the only one who’s wandered in the desert for a time. What have your wilderness experiences been like and what did you learn from them? (Scroll down to leave a comment.)