Deep in the Desert

I have spent a tremendous amount of time crying over the last month and a half. Naïvely I thought tears had some end because I have cried so much in my past already. When I reflect on my life, I realize I’ve spent a great deal of it crying. I cried at weddings, both tears of joy for the couple and sadness because my dad will never walk me down the aisle. I’ve cried at Disney movies because I’m a wuss hahaha. I cried at funerals because of the flood of painful memories from my dad’s death. I cried tears of joy seeing my nieces make milestones like taking their first steps. I cried due to joy from praising God for loving me where I am and blessing me beyond what I felt I deserved. Lately I cried tears of anguish, pain and resolve. They all taste the same though. Bitter and salty.

When I think of the desert I think of many things. Dry air, heat, bitterness, wind, unrelenting sun, cactuses and camels, loneliness and being alone. I think of thirst, of dangers seen and unseen, of endless sand, of hard work and laboring, of toil, and of the rare oases we hear of in cartoons and fairy tales.

My life feels very much like that desert, like the one I visited recently…one characterized by such an unbearable heat that the sweat rolled down my back causing tiredness, weariness and thirst. The lack of surety underfoot made walking truly difficult, much like an intense workout. But I would be lying if I did not acknowledge the beauty of the desert even in the midst of the apparent negative attributes. It was quite a sight to see, and those who lived there and have been fortunate to experience it are forever changed by the power of it.

I have questioned everything — my faith, whether anyone loves me, whether I am supposed to only love others, who can I trust, why I am still alive, what my true purpose is, and what could I have done to deserve this. I also accepted my role in where I am, the choices I made and didn’t make to contribute to it all. I presume the heat of the desert is great for causing disillusionment and delusions to the point its captives start grabbing the sand as if it is water. Many times I’ve said to myself this is simply a cruel joke and that one day I will wake up and see the cameras. The only thing is, that day will never come. Alternate realities do not exist…well maybe they do if you shift how you look at it. So I’m in the process of seeing the desert for what it is, both beauty and ugliness, pain and joy, and choosing which route I will take through it to get to the other side.

I guess what makes this time different from all the other painful situations I’ve experienced in life is that it happened in what I thought was a surrendered place. I believed I was hearing God…rather I know I did. I turned all my choices over to God, fasted and prayed at His leading, went through the assignments even when I did not understand, and put my perceived struggles at God’s feet for deliverance and asked Him incessantly for the way of escape so that when it came in an unrecognizable package I was bamboozled.

One of my constant thoughts has been about why this was allowed to happen to me and why now. Somehow I was led to Samson. For several days God had me listen to the Bible beginning in Judges and Samson’s very familiar story stood out to me in a new way.

One thing I have received constantly from others is unsolicited advice and opinions, their views and thoughts on what I should do and how my actions warranted the results I’ve received. It’s actually something I hate and particularly was reminded of during my trip to Dubai. It’s also something I’ve done extensively in the past (and a sign of immaturity) of which I’ve repented and instead learned to listen and withhold my insights until God gives me release to do so (which protects me from anger when the words aren’t heeded and applied). But what God gave me as peace was in the story of Samson and how the BLATANT SINS in his life WERE ALLOWED BY GOD to ultimately execute a massive attack against the Philistines. The difference between me and Samson is that I was praying about my own deliverance and way of escape and clearly he wasn’t, in fact he was strong-willed. I will say I have been strong-willed in rejecting the flawed but well meaning "insights" I’ve received so that I could clearly take what was from God.

Back to Samson…God allowed his actions and in fact Judges 14:4 says “His father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, and that He sought an occasion for assailing the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” This really blessed me, because for those who’ve responded to me in judgment I recognize that God hides things from even our parents and those that love us. In fact He has often reminded me of how prophecy is a partial view of what is to come and that things aren’t clearly revealed until He deems it necessary. (See 1 Cor 13) I know ultimately that regardless of my choices, this testimony when I finally give it will help free some people who have faced similar situations and I have to believe that my perpetual sufferings are not in vain.
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People who love us often have good intentions in the things they say to us. But what God has caused me to now question is their motives. For example, your mother could intend to give a correcting word to you to help you or steer you on the right path but her motive for giving that word is to validate herself. Likewise a friend could recommend you make a choice in favor of another intending to give you what she thinks is the best solution to your problem when her motive is to give the advice she wished she had received. Samson’s parents meant well, intending to raise and guide Samson in accordance with Israelite and Nazirite law while I’m sure their motives were to prevent their son from shaming their family with the Philistines — but since that’s not explicit in the story I can only speculate. I clearly take away from my situation that our boxed-up, cookie cutter words of encouragement or "perceived correction" are not a one-size-fits-all package. In fact, we can do more damage to a person’s faith and relationship with God by giving these well-intended words without at least listening to the person and consulting God first — the better acts of love. We often give advice through the color of our own experiences or experiences we have knowledge of and rather than genuinely seek God about what that person may need, we suffer from diarrhea of the mouth because of our need to be right or righteous and sometimes unknowingly do harm to the heart and soul of another.

It’s in situations like this where when lacking a direct word from God, people who receive these well-intended but misguided words can fall into shame, condemnation and guilt and open the door for worse — all tactics by the enemy to keep you bound. In fact what is critical to note is that this behavior is often rooted in a RELIGIOUS spirit, which is the exact opposite of Christ. And being reminded of a scripture last night that serves as one of my life verses, in fact I have the numbers on a bracelet — Romans 8:28, all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose for them — I remembered unfortunately that all situations, good and bad will be used for God’s glory IF WE ALLOW IT — and here, Samson’s weakness for Philistine women was used to bring a mighty deliverance in Israel against the Philistines while Samson tragically served as a judge.

God used an angel to bless me last night in my final call as I made it home. I was getting really sleepy and I only had an hour left to get to my bed. Of all the people I’ve shared my situation with, only my talks with three people have brought me peace, whether it was in listening and/or in giving the right-on-time God word. So I truly thank God for you Amanda❤️❤️❤️!!!! It was as I talked to her that the scattered pieces of my mind and heart came together and processed what I needed to do for me versus for all the parties "involved" and ill-apportioned value I assigned to their insights. I realized during our conversation that a driving factor in my reactions has been fear. I confirmed that shame was trying its hardest to pull me down. I also remembered that I’ve been manipulated by those closest to me in the past and so I am keen on its tactics so this is yet another attempt to get me to fall for it. Most important of all, regardless of my decision, God had went to great lengths to remind me that He is here with me.

I also saw that I needed to take some lessons from Samson. He didn’t consult a multitude of people when he made decisions (and according to Proverbs that’s not the wise thing to do). However it is getting counsel from a multitude of counsellors with motives that proves to also be the dangerous thing, as I’ve learned in the past from talking too much. I remember specifically when I was in a pageant I took too many people with me to try on dresses and I ended up mad and irritated. It was not until I went alone and searched that I found the dress that I felt was right for me. While my situation is exponentially greater and much more life-impacting than a pageant dress, I realized my only consult needs to be God at this moment. Now I’m reminded of Moses, who had his burning bush experience alone in the desert and there met God. It was there God called him and empowered him to become the great deliverer of the children of Israel and it was there that their friendship began. I’d like to hope that through this situation and after I get over my anger, lol, that God and I can truly become friends here.

So deep in the desert has been a place eliciting many emotions and feelings. But I hope this encourages you that deserts are not forever unless you choose to stay there. They have specific purposes: to purge the impurities through the intense heat you can encounter there. They can offer you chance encounters with God that permanently change the trajectory of your life. I’m reminded of something I read recently — in fact it said that there needs to be a crisis for you to have an encounter with God and boy am I ever in one. Moses certainly had a crisis — being on the run for murder and being called to be a deliverer. The blistering winds can serve to shape you like the beautiful dunes or send you away while wreaking havoc like a sandstorm. They can offer you picturesque views to look back on and reflect after all is said and done — that’s what my pictures from my trip show me. And they can offer you hope, because even trees and cactuses grow in the desert where water is sparse and some thrive there. It’s all in your perspective of it.

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