in the unchartered wilderness
“I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart. There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [troubling] to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth…” Hosea 2: 14-15 (AMP)
I used to romanticize the journey, with its dips and swells and valleys and mountaintops. I laced up my hiking boots, packed a picnic, saw the long and winding road ahead (insert crooning Beatles here), dotted with wildflowers.
That was my thing. The journey. I was a sojourner. But then my boots gave me blisters, as I kept walking and walking and walking. The food ran out and I had to learn how to forage. The journey was no longer full of anticipation or adventure. It was arduous, nerve wracking and long.
I was a wandering, broken down heart, lost out there, with the sticks and stones and dried up riverbeds.
There was no way out.
Recently, after two years of sobbing and labouring through the woods, I plunked myself down and spoke these hoarse voiced words: I give up.
In this place, where knees meet ground and arms hang slack, I have discovered something.
Here, I let God into all the wafer thin places, uncurl fists and adopt the Esther attitude: if I die, I die.
If I break, you mend me.
If I seek, I will find You.
I’m expecting my second child, and the fatigue and fears have crept their way in with regularity and boldness. I’m tired of edging my way forward, toe by toe. So, I throw tantrums. Rightly so, some might say, as I push through another pregnancy and attempt to hold my sick little girl in my arms for a few moments before she chokes. I try hard not to whine, but before I know it, I’m letting my voice warble with these words: God, I know you are doing something here, but I can’t see it. It’s hard for me to believe you for good things. And I know it’s not even your fault. I am just doing this all wrong and messy.
In my weakest moments, I want the before and the after, not the now.
Truthfully, what I really want is to take my eyes off of Jesus and do it myself. I would do it faster and better. I wouldn’t let myself go through this. I would hack through these bushes in the wilderness and hitch a ride to civilization.
But that would be the fast track to heartache. I’ve been trying to do it on my own with a hefty dose of stress and anxiety—and it’s brought me to my knees. Ann Voskamp, in her One Thousand Gifts Devotional, asks “Are stress and worry evidence of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, too keep gaze fixed on God?”
God and Ann’s words reminded me of the importance of gathering manna.
In Exodus 16, this mysterious manna, or “what is it?” was fuel from heaven for the Israelites. A white flaky thing, sweet like honey, bland like a cracker. If they took more than they needed for the day, it would rot.
God commanded the Israelites to gather two quarts of it, stick it in a jar, and show it to future generations so they could see the bread that God fed them while they wandered in the wilderness.
Forty years of living off whitish, sweetish manna in the desert. Their daily bread, their portion.
I’m finally learning that it’s necessary to gather my manna portion every day. It’s something I’ve been too lazy, tired, or depressed to do. I thought I could just get by without it. With those mumbled prayers and weekly bouts of worship, I drifted by, my hands and mind tangled up in medical appointments, and the daily grind of maintaining my daughter’s health.
Now, after my morning care-taking routine with my daughter, I flop onto the couch, put my feet up on the coffee table and open my devotional, the Word, my journal. And I wait. The fine pages of my Bible flutter as the fan blasts air around the room. I wait for Him to direct my eyes, because they are weary and sometimes blind to His goodness. He faithfully whispers the words that I need for each day.
“You shall be blessed and it shall be well with you…your children will be like olive shoots around your table…May you see your children’s children.” Psalm 128
“We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:12
Here’s the thing. We can yell at God and ask Him where He is, and why we feel He isn’t listening. We can say words with weight to them and watch as they fall like dust, slow and empty. The cycle will continue, until we simply walk away.
If, however, we learn to see, hear and sing with new eyes, ears and songs, if we learn that this manna will sustain us each day, we will thrive. We will long to gather it in the morning and the evening.
We will settle in the wild places, sustained and well fed. We will build a home in the midst of our brokenness and uncertainty.
I can now look down at my pregnant belly in wonder and peace, and with a deep breath say: God, my mother flesh doesn’t know how to trust you very well on this journey, but my mother spirit knows Your voice.
Make your home in me, so that I may plant my roots in this landscape, in all seasons, steady and secure in your love. Teach me to trust you here.
For You will let life abound, off the map and in the chaos. You will let us feast on the dew of the morning and the sweet black of night.
You will let us fill our cups and bellies with all that we need for each day.
And You will come equipped, to our lacklustre, broken spirits, put a stake in the soil and build us up amongst the ruins.