I have shared many times with those who know me well and possibly even in previous posts how difficult my journey in coming and sustaining here has been. I am a routine individual. While I like spontaneity, I also cleave to the familiar especially, when it comes to people.
When I learned that we would be coming here, I struggled greatly. I even left church for the last 9 months of my time at home. A decision I have regretted every day since because where those last 9 months could have been a time of goodbyes and growth and support, I isolated myself and only deepened my pain and the struggles I had with leaving.
Those who know my story know that having to come here as a partial family, allowing my girls to stay behind with their father was a decision that broke my spirit and my heart in ways I will never adequately be able to express in words. Not because their father was not worthy of having them there but simply because I am their Momma and I didn’t want to miss a second. Where I needed to trust God, I was so desperately attempting to but there was so much anger and pain behind those attempts that I often found myself weeping and begging for a different answer, a different plan.
It never came. God’s plans and purposes stayed the same. I didn’t see the bigger picture but He did.
When I came here it was out of nothing more than obedience. I didn’t want to be here, I wasn’t even sure I would remain here as I had NO idea what to expect. My mind was not in the right frame but my heart was desperate to not fail God…to trust even if it hurt.
I stumbled my way through a roller coaster of emotions I cannot even describe in a way that paints an accurate picture.
It has been…rough. (And that’s putting it lightly.)
Nonetheless, I came here and once again, nothing seemed to go the way I hoped or planned or even prayed for. We came in and found a church immediately but within 7 months, the Lord called us out. I was so broken by this point, I would be lying if I did not tell you that lying down and raising that little white flag didn’t sound good. It did. I wanted so badly to do that but I had come so far and God had brought me so far…I wanted to just keep hoping that the restoration He promised, the things He spoke would come to pass.
In the beginning, I worked hard to MAKE THEM COME TO PASS. Has anyone ever been there? Can I get an amen? I am so embarrassed just remembering it. Trying to force restoration. Trying to force things to work for MY benefit. My stomach just turns thinking about it and I laugh at myself all at the same time. What on earth ever made me think that would even work?
The Lord has kept us out of church for an entire year now. I know you are reading that and shaking your head saying, “Uh uh..sister you are believing a lie. God would never take us out of the body of Christ.”
I understand your logic and I know the scriptures you have in mind but He DID and it was NECESSARY.
When I came to know the Lord almost 6 years ago now, I was the very definition of vile, messy, hopeless and a wreck. My life had been nothing short of a plane crashing to the earth at 300 miles per hour with no parachutes on board. I lived my life in chaos and without understanding and I was sick. Very very sick. I was speeding through life with no way to stop and evaluate what was happening and when I did have moments where that occurred, I was so ashamed I just ran and ran and ran; thinking God could never love me.
And of course, I was wrong. He loved me RADICALLY and as we know he does, He gave me a new life, a new heart, a new soul. He gave me a CLEAN SLATE.
I dove in with ALL I had for Christ. I clung to every person He brought into my journey to help guide me. I became VERY dependent on the teachings of those who were further ahead in their walk and who had much wisdom to share. That is a very beautiful thing but it is also a very dangerous thing.
When you are like I was and you have nothing but a trail of broken relationships, broken promises and broken plans, you very quickly want to become the opposite when you realize life doesn’t have to be that way. We “extremists” as I like to call my past self, tend to have a difficult time finding balance and learning for ourselves out of a fear that we might just mess it all up again.
That fear was always there. Always underlying. Always surfacing and creating this need for me to learn from those around me and become a people pleaser. Sisters (brothers), no matter how good our intentions or pure our hearts, we cannot please God and people at the same time. He must be our first source and He must be our only strength. We cannot place that responsibility upon anyone else.
Unfortunately I had and I didn’t even realize it. I had placed it upon my CHURCH. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED JESUS MORE THAN ANYTHING. I still do. However, I relied on my pastor and my mentors to teach me the scriptures. I read them, but only what they taught me that day and only where I was directed by some devotional or Bible application. I spent a few minutes taking in a few things and then I prayed. My knowledge came from someone’s perspective of God and quite frankly, what I believed about my gifts and callings came from what someone I loved spoke into me .
You guys…sometimes we can get lost in the church and forget that Jesus CAN and WILL teach us. We forget that He should be the first call we make in a crisis or in a moment of victory. Jesus should be our first love affair and our first friendship. He should be number one but all too often, he comes third or fourth or maybe even further down the list because we cling too fervently to those we glean from around us.
I say all that to tell you that when I came here, when God removed me from all I knew and placed me in the middle of a new land and a new people, God had every intention of tearing me down to build me back up. He had every intention of letting me dive in as I always do with love and passion in my heart to lead me straight into the wilderness…alone.
One of my now favorite passages from Hosea 2:14,15 says this,
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.”
I came to Florida a codependent woman when I was created to stand on my own two feet. I came to Florida created to be a leader but was acting like a follower. I came to Florida needing so desperately those mentors and that church I had clung to but God created me to be someone who clung solely to HIM.
This last year, I had no church that I could truly call my own. I visited so many churches I thought I might just literally start screaming at the Lord. The first 10 months were rough. I whined. I threw a fit. I laid in bed and said I was giving up. I told God I couldn’t do it anymore. Then one day, I woke up this past June and I said, “God…do I even know YOU anymore?” I mean do I really, to the core, know You or is what I know about you based solely on what EVERYONE else around me has told me You are?”
Suddenly a light bulb went off.
I paid more attention to the churches I visited. I went to so many denominations, I would make a devout church goer shake their head in embarrassment. I visited Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Non-denominational and do you know what I discovered? (Brace yourselves). The Holy Spirit was the SAME. The Holy Spirt was the SAME every place I went. There was no difference. The Worship was the SAME for me. I probably thoroughly frightened some in my freedom but everyone was gracious enough to not tell me if I did but not for a second did it matter to me. Not for a second. I came to find Jesus and I was going to meet Him and no one else right in that spot no matter what. Going to all those churches taught me to not be afraid to worship the way God designed me to and I did it. I could hear the chains falling every week.
I began to find things in the scripture I never knew existed. Do you know why? Because I no longer had this Bible study or that sermon or this person or that pastor teaching me. I was knee deep in the wilderness crying out, “Show me your truth God. Teach me your Word. I need revelation.” I didn’t stop asking. I dove in and I began to understand things on a whole new level and when that began to happen, I began to see things within myself that God needed to remove. I began to go to a deeper place in my worship and my prayer time and it wasn’t in a building full of people. It was in a tiny closet in my house. It was in that intimate place with the Lord.
I am created to teach, to preach and to lead (even if just to within the confines of my own family) but I could not do that until I fully understood what it mean to solely and fully rely on no one but God. The Father had to remove me from those I love and clung to so that I would begin to cling to HIM above all else. Oh sisters (and brothers), what an amazing and beautiful thing that is to learn.
This past year has shaped me in ways I never saw coming. It has given me a boldness and a confidence I never thought I could have. Even as I type that I hear my dear friend Becki Kneeland laughing because I am pretty sure she doesn’t think boldness has ever been an issue for me but the truth is, it has. My boldness came when others built it up. My boldness came when others understood what I was doing and AGREED WITH IT. There is something even more beautiful when you can be bold and everyone thinks you are crazy until they see JESUS and realize, our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. That’s true boldness. That’s a Paul kind of boldness. That’s the kind of boldness we need to have in these days; an immovable truth that we are not afraid to share just because it isn’t popular.
God has grown my ability to rely solely on Him in such a sweet and beautiful way. This time alone with Him was crucial to what I am created to do and who I am created to be and to the love I have wanted to display to Him and others from the beginning. You see, I have learned that if I never have a formal ministry outside my home and I never have anything I am known as other than someone who loves Jesus with all her heart, then I am victorious. It is about Jesus folks. It’s not about what we are teaching others, it is what is HE teaching us? Who do we love the most? God or our churches? God or our families? What comes first and what do we KNOW about Jesus for ourselves?
It was a year ago this month that God removed us from the place I thought would be our church. It was a year ago this month that God allured me into the wilderness and began to speak softly to me the truths of who He is and began to work on the things that I was unable to see existed within me. It was a year ago that I began to be alone…with God.
And just like that, the Lord led someone to invite me to their church. They didn’t realize that was what God was doing but they did it and we have visited several times as a family. I had not even dared ask the Lord if we could stay. I didn’t even dare question if this could be the end of the very long, lonely place I had walked through. I didn’t dare ask because I wanted the Lord to know that I finally trust Him above ALL ELSE. I finally am ready to submit ALL IN, take me where you want, keep me alone if you must; I’m ready to do this…whatever this is. I am finally in a love relationship with JESUS all for myself and what has seemed so lonely now makes perfect sense.
We love this new church. We have been meeting amazing people, making some sweet connections, learning some powerful truths and feeling hopeful and this morning, I attended my first Women’s Bible Study in over a year and what do you know…it is on fellowship.
I sat through those two hours and took in every word that was spoken. My heart was so full of joy I thought I might get up and start running around the room telling God how much I loved him and how much I appreciated Him allowing me to be there. I listened and I gleaned but I also found myself saying, “Teach this to me Lord. What are you speaking to me here in this place?” I was confident, I was excited and I was ALIVE.
And as the study came to a close, we began to pray.
As our sweet leader led us in this beautiful prayer, I heard the Lord say,
“Read the last sentence in your notes…”
So I opened my eyes and there upon the page were the closing words of the author of the study,
“You do not have to be alone any more.”
I wept silent tears and I knew instantly that the Lord was telling me two things:
- My time alone in the wilderness is over. He has just taken me from the thickest, darkest of forrest and walked me straight into a valley of light and hope so beautiful, I will never be the same.
- I am home. (For however long He calls us here that is.)
Friends, sometimes God does call us to seasons in which it will be necessary to be stripped of every single thing we put first before God and that may even include church. I would NEVER advocate and am not advocating or suggesting that you leave your church….EVER. We need the body of Christ and we need those leaders and teachers and brothers and sisters to help us through the chaos that this life brings. We need one another and the Bible is CLEAR upon that but as I sit and pour this out, I see others out there walking a similar journey and you are ready to quit and you feel abandoned but don’t you dare raise that flag and don’t you ever forget that God will NEVER leave you or forsake you.
If you are in a season of being alone, call out to God and ask Him what the purpose is. I can promise you there is one. It will either be that you are in a place you shouldn’t be or it will be because the Lord has brought you into the wilderness to prepare you for what must be done in the valley.
God loves you in ways you cannot imagine and HE is there. Seek him first…above all things. Allow God to be your most important friendship and love and take a deep breath. There is something beautiful happening in that wilderness. I promise.
Blessings, love and abundant prayers,