Last week, I turned 27. The leaves in South Carolina decided to hold out on us until the last minute and then surprised us by changing overnight, and who was it who said autumn's trees will teach us how to let go gracefully? I haven't written much over the past couple of months, so admittedly, this feels a bit like starting over. Beginning is always exciting and full of new possibilities, but beginning again is like bumping into an almost lover and fumbling over pleasantries. Beginning again feels like the first wobbly and unsure movements after the surgery. There's a tension between being and becoming, and I am learning to lean into it, instead of raging against it. Perhaps more simply put, I am learning to obey -- learning to listen for the sound of the Father's voice and agree with whatever he tells me.
This, I'm finding, is what the wilderness is for. It is here that I recognize my freedom, that I see him split seas right in front of me. This is where he prepares a table and feeds me on the mystery — innumerable bold and whispered declarations that I am no longer a slave, but a child — his child.
I told a friend a couple weeks ago that I feel like my fear is on life support these days. And I told her about the dream I had about standing up and telling everyone I saw about the beauty and hope to be found in the wilderness. Truthfully, I don't put much stock in dreams -- I mostly chock them up to eating too many brussel sprouts before bed. But this one felt different. It felt like a release, and after these aching days of silence, I'm grateful.
So here I am, returning and knowing full well that He brings beauty from ashes.
I think of the words of de Foucauld: the one thing we absolutely owe to God is to never be afraid of anything.
I was visiting a new Bible study when someone asked if I ever had trouble hearing kindness in the voice of Jesus. Right away, my mind recalled Hebrews 4:15 to mind: for we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness. The tears came quick, the way they always seem to do these days when my soul sits still for long enough to consider Jesus.
It isn't ever very hard for me to hear the whispers of his kindness. My goodness, he has been so, so kind to me. But I have walked through seasons where it seemed like hope was lost. I look at the current climate of our world, of my own neighborhood, and often find myself feeling jaded and wondering Jesus, where are you, and where is this kingdom you asked me to pray for?
I need to know that the light really is winning, because sometimes the world can feel like a wild and dark place, and there are so many days when the tension seems unbearably thick.
The Israelites loathed the wilderness sustenance, but my soul is hungry. I tell God to show up however he wants to. I tell him that I'm so, so hungry.
I ask him to show me the growing parts -- the true and pure and noble and lovely parts, and I pray that I'll find myself there again, among the good soil.
He reminds me that there is music to be played here, that he has words just for me here, and that it's in the tension that I am chosen, blessed, broken, and given. He fills me up again, calls me beloved again and invites me to keep walking with him as he keeps restoring my soul -- day by day, little by little.
Day by day, little by little, is how a life is built.
A life characterized by flourishing and abundance, not by fear and shrinking and scarcity -- but a life marked by the more that he always gives. A life that is built on a firm foundation, rather than my own flimsy attempts at control and stability.
The daily (moment by moment) surrender, the continual returning to pick up my cross and follow the shepherd, knowing that he will never lead me where he hasn't gone before -- the daily confession that he makes the way straight.
The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.
I have learned to love this wilderness -- but now, I can see the promised land, and my heart feels ready.
I go knowing that I am beloved.