March 26, 2019
I recently posted on my personal Instagram account about the struggle of my time in the wilderness. The response was so overwhelming that I had obviously hit on something that needs to be talked about. Here’s what I shared,
“The deconstruction process with me and the Lord around the topic of “c”hurch has been brutal. There. I said it. If you’ve been in my close circle you’ve known the journey of the past four years. The sleepless nights, the loss of community, the looks of concern when you admit you are “that person” struggling with lower case “c” church. I used to pray for those people. I never thought it would be me. For the longest time I was afraid my questions meant I was deceived, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a myriad of other lies. Where I come from, you honor and worship the mission and institution as if it were God. Only God can be God. I gave my all for a mission and vision. I honored the spiritual hierarchy of being a Christian to being a very serious Christian who was a leader in ministry. I was a leader in my local church. And i was dying. I was disconnected from my own God created soul and I didn’t know why. I didn’t and still don’t understand American church. I also don’t want to be a person who complains and offers no input or stick-with-it-ness to the local church, but I believe there is a time to grieve, heal, wrestle and live in the not-knowing. If you knew how many church refugees there were out there afraid to share, you’d be astounded and I pray you wouldn’t respond like I did a few years ago. I was a Pharisee of Pharisees. I write all this because I want to live a congruent life and I also want to be a support to those of you who are in the wrestle, but you are terrified to share due to judgement, correction and a stern warning. I’m so glad I have mature Believers around me who get it, who aren’t concerned about the process and who in fact see it as part of what Spirit is doing. They have walked beside me and reminded me to breathe when I lost the people I thought would be present for years. If you’re like me, please reach out. There are a whole bunch of us out here who love Jesus, love the Church, want to somehow be a part of what is on His heart, but still wrestling. Much love to you. This is risky to write for me, especially with what I do, but after this long of not talking about it, that seems more harmful.”
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1
About six months into the church struggle, I stared at this passage with my jaw to the ground. It was Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter weekend. After reading ten different translations, they all said the same thing. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he would face intense testing by the Greatest Liar that had ever lived. Could it be possible that the place where I found myself was in fact a place I had been led versus a place I had strayed?
After 4 years of wrestling, I began noticing a pattern in myself and others when they were in the beginning stages of being led into the wilderness.
Do any of these resonate with you?
Signs in which Holy Spirit might be leading you into the wilderness for a season:
- I am being led to a place where I feel alone.
- I’m resisting things I didn’t resist before and questioning things I’ve never questioned.
- I am in a time of transition and cannot make sense of it.
- I have more questions than I have answers.
- Anger, anxiety and depression are surfacing more frequently.
- I find myself controlling what I can because everything else seems out of control.
- I go to my “managers” (food/over exercise/alcohol/Netflix/social media) more than what is healthy.
- My friends are getting tired of my questions.
- I fantasize about a different life.
- I see surrender and waiting as weakness.
- I feel frustrated that what I do is never enough (bad theology).
- I am restless.
- I feel the need to hide my struggles for fear of judgement and warnings.
- I feel afraid of where I am largely because I can’t discern if where I am is the Enemy or is it Holy Spirit? It’s so foreign that fear blocks my ability to “hear”.
- Answers have become more important than the process.
- I am trying to hold something together in my own strength (friend group, event, job) in order to keep from feeling loss.
Can anything good come from our time in the wilderness? Can Holy Spirit lead you to a place that looks like all it offers is death?
And here’s the thing you might not learn in Sunday School, unless you have a rare teacher, sometimes we are led into the wilderness because there are things, relationships, false persona’s and messed up beliefs that need to die.
What might feel like death to you, might be what is about to birth new life.
Before Jesus was led into the wilderness, he was baptized. As Jesus was in the wilderness, having not eaten, spending time talking with his Father and being helped by Holy Spirit, he faced lies, testing and distortions of truth from The Liar. He was helped. Over and over Jesus was helped. He knew what was true. I wonder how much of those 40 days were spent in silence and listening? We are privy to three interactions, but what about the rest of the time? I believe, according to how the next three years played out, that the wilderness was necessary for Jesus. If it was necessary for Jesus, it is necessary for us at different points in our lives.
Stick close to the Truth. Hang with mature Believers who can see a bigger picture and aren’t afraid for you. Keep talking to Jesus, keep listening to Holy Spirit. You are not alone. Ask the question, “Is this place, where I don’t want to be, could it actually be what Spirit uses for healing and freedom? A place of tension to live in the mystery and the not-knowing? An invitation to rest in the wrestle?” He’s got you.