When asked about our summer, James and I simultaneously sigh and respond, "Well, we've been in the Desert."
The Desert. That sacred place where God leads His child into a deeper relationship with Him by stripping him bare of comfort, status quo and selfishness. Leaving everything she knows and submitting to the process of death to self, greater submission of her will to God and being a willing, sacrificial participant. The Israelites don't give a lot of encouragement here on this topic, except for maybe what not to do. But as we followed Our Lord into the Desert, little by little, a picture started to emerge.
The Need For God
This one shouldn't be hard, but for those who pride themselves on being self-sufficient, (present company included), it's easy to get caught up in doing the work of God instead of loving Him. I found this a startling realization this summer. I kept asking God, "Ok, simply give me your vision for what's next and I'll be on way!" But the vision never came. Up until this point, the Lord had been unusually clear and precise about what I'm to do and then I begin the work. "No matter," I told myself, "The vision will come." Days and weeks passed and the vision never came. I began to get worried. Then restless. Then angry. Then depressed.
At this point in the Desert, I had resided myself that we were at the mercy of something bigger and I should simply let go of ever receiving another vision for my life ever again. (Perhaps a tad dramatic.) I'd say to those around me, half-joking, half-desperate, "We're in a sail boat with no sail, no oar and no wind. Just at the mercy of the sea." Drifting. My word, if I could have given a dollar to a charity every time I tossed out the word "pointless" this summer, I may have been able to end world hunger. No, but seriously. This first half of the Desert was so hard to let go of trusting in my understanding. That blissful feeling that you get when you understand where you're going and why you're going there. Just so we're clear: I LOVE that feeling. I had no idea how much I loved and rested in the peace that comes from knowing my purpose. I had (and still do) have some serious attachment to my understanding. Whoops. I used to judge the Israelites pretty harshly in Exodus for their ungratefulness, but the more time I spend in the Desert, the more I can relate to our mutual brokenness. They didn't know what the Desert meant to them. They were just happy to be freed from slavery--until it got hard and they got hungry. They were pushed out of their comfort zone, forgot all the miracles of how God mercifully restored their freedom and started longing for the comforts slavery had offered them.
Find Your Manna
In the midst of my lamenting, I remembered some really sound spiritual advice I heard once about the desert. "If you find yourself in the desert, remember to go out and find your manna." But the key is going out and finding it every day. Every. Day. You don't get to store it up and skip a day, nope, every day. James and I found great solace and humility in asking God every day for His joy. To discipline ourselves to daily prayer in connecting with God, not just phoning it in, but attempting to be truly present. To submit our wills to Him every moment in every day. In the words of Heidi Baker, "low and slow." God was having us come down low and slow and meet Him there. Every day. Regardless of how we felt or if we believed we needed it. So humbling to only look at today. Only look at this hour, this minute that we exist in and see the eternity in it. To see God here, present, in this moment. And then the next. And the next. Right here. One second at a time. To be reminded that God is near, not far away, at all times. If you ever wonder if it's perhaps possible to live in a suspension of time, I really, truly believe you can. We were living it. Sweet Jesus, Lord have mercy on the poor souls in Purgatory!
That is the Purpose
I found a turning point in the Desert through a text conversation, of all things, that I was having with my sister. Up until this point, the days would go all right if I went and got my manna and simply waited on the Lord. The days when I would lose my patience and press my will on the Lord demanding the vision, I was crushed into dust. I was below existence. I was humbled into submission and in somewhat, spiritual despair. Not the sinful kind of despair, but the deep knowledge in knowing you cannot and will not ever win. And in that sadness, nothingness, and lowness, I expressed my sorrows to my sister and found myself saying, "I feel like I'm wrestling with God." And that's when the sweetest message of Grace came from God the Father, my Daddy-God, through my sister. "Teresa, this is the point. This is the purpose. This moment, this Desert is the vision. The purpose this summer is your transformation." Mic drop.
Behind the Veil
When I received that text, I have to tell you the vision the Lord gave to me in that moment at the same time my sister sent it. Immediately, in my minds-eye, I was in a garden, a beautiful garden, and the Lord appeared and spoke to me gently, lovingly, and knowingly said, "Teresa, this is the vision." And I immediately understood what my dull mind refused to see before. What a grace! I can't begin to describe my utter joy and also, my embarrassment at my stubborn, willful self in the eyes of my Daddy-God. My Father. My Dad, The Almighty. One parents out of love and so does our Father-God. If this was only the half-way point, what other incredible moments are coming in this magical land we call The Desert?
This year we've had great triumphs, exhilarating joys and tremendous sorrow. It's also been couched with confusion, isolation and no clear discernment in very big life decisions. By the time The Desert rolled around, we were beyond spent. But little by little, as we became more open, more fully submitted to the Lord and His timing, we let go of all that plagued our tired, type-A minds and simply lived one day at a time, in step with Jesus. Refusing to worry when and where to step and where we were being led. That feeling when you were little and you simply had to hold the hand of your mother or your father and you followed. And as we followed, we found little by little the Lord began to restore all that had seemed to have been lost.
The Lap of the Father
Life is still very much open-ended, but things are starting to take shape a little piece at a time. I still find myself being stressed since unknowns are stressful, but I have a weird new peace about everything. No matter what anxious thought crosses my mind, I find myself saying, "My Dad will have to take care of it." And when I wake up at night and am unable to fall asleep because my mind is racing, instead of demanding answers, I go right to the throne of Heaven, crawl up into the lap of my Father and simply press into His heart. I share with my Daddy-God how crazy it is down here and that He'll simply have to fix it. And I fall asleep in His arms.
I don't know who that girl is, but I can imagine He saw her all along and couldn't wait to meet her in August. <3