Wilderness Wanderings . . .
In the spring of 2005 I was asked by Louise Wallis and Kathy Hightower to be the speaker for the 2006 Women's Retreat. The theme was to be "Through the Wilderness" and I was thought to be somewhat qualified to speak on the topic. Preparation and the event itself remain one of the highpoints in my life! The fact of the matter was/is/and will always be that GOD IS FAITHFUL! Going into that weekend, I knew that there was the possibility that the ovarian cancer, in remission for three years, was once again present. God used that retreat to prepare me for what was ahead.
I walked away from that weekend overflowing with spiritual blessings and most grateful that God had put us in such a fulfilling ministry. Little by little Tom and I were adjusting to his Parkinson's and planning changes in our living arrangements that would help our situation. Just a few weeks after the retreat everything suddenly changed!! The returnn of cancer was confirmed, I was given a prognosis no one wants to hear, the stress took a toll on Tom, we were advised to retire and move close to family. It was not only wilderness, but exile, up close and personal. The next few months presented more challenges. As I appeared to be getting worse, Tom did too. In the midst of all the problems, the saints of Fair Oaks nurtured and cared for us and got us moved to Jackson, TN. We went there to die. BUT GOD, in His mercy gave us life.
My condition has improved. I am no longer "incurable," but have a "chronic" illness that is being maintained by the grace of God and through medication. Tom's condition steadily went downhill, but we were together, caring for one another and making the most of every day. God gave us a cloud and a pillar of fire to guide our steps and manna from heaven to sustain us day to day. Then, Tom died. I wondered then and wonder now how I can possibly live without him, but I can and I do.
I still wander in the wilderness--the wilderness of loneliness, of rejection, of uncertainty. But, in this wilderness God is teaching and healing. I have time to devote to private Bible study and prayer. I have time to read both for spiritual growth and for pleasure. Last Sunday Tommy preached right to me in his sermon entitled, "Meet Him in the Wilderness." The lectionary sequence spoke volumns to him. We had been in Mark with Jesus busy, busy teaching and performing miracles and the logical next texts were the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water, but it skipped right over those "biggies" and went to Jesus trying to get away to wilderness to pray and spend time with his Father.
When we meet God in the wilderness, life is not about doing, it is not about service and mission, it is not about what must be done, but what we must be. In the wilderness we take time to be with God. We can focus on our dependence on God. We are informed by the wilderness experience of the Israelites, how David was refreshed and kept safe in the wilderness and how Jesus, himself, took advantage of being in the wilderness with God. It is not inactivity for the sake of inactivity, it is being still and knowing God.
I have been frustrated with what I should be doing and have been reminded that for the child of God, it is a matter of who we are and whose we are. When we are "settled into being," instead of wondering "what I should be doing," God directs our steps. The wilderness is that place where we meet God and are led step by step to the land "flowing with milk and honey."
Thanks again to Louise and Kathy for starting this process.