See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
I have spent most, if not nearly all of my life in the context of the church – immersed in Scripture, theology, Bible-studies, prayer, and all the accompanying craziness that goes along with such. Increasingly over the past 7 or 8 years, I have moved out of those realms, intentionally, gratefully. (Ironically, I pursued and attained my Master of Divinity degree in the midst of all this). Still/always working to create and imagine another system of belief and mode of praxis to fill in that gap – both for myself and for others.
The easiest response has been to walk away. To turn my back. To even sneer a bit at my background and former system of belief. The harder response is one of integration. To stay. To allow for the beauty and power of belief while simultaneously being curious about what may yet be revealed.
Today found me smack in the middle of these two realities, between the wasteland and the “promised land” (I’ll leave you to decide which is which…I go back and forth, myself).
The significance of the “wasteland” metaphor is not lost on me. Nearly all of my book-writing aspirations (up until recently) have been using the desert as the symbol of a woman’s experience in the context of theology, Scriptural interpretation, and therefore life. I have written pages and pages (in ordered, coherent, and even published form, in blogs, and in my head) thinking through a number of biblical narratives of women who find themselves in the desert – literally, figuratively, and then by force because of (biased) (OK…my bias) exegesis and interpretation through the years. I have found myself in many wastelands within my theology and in my life – in marriage (and out), in other relationships (and out) in work (and without), as a mother, as a woman in this culture, this day, this world. I’m familiar with the desert – it’s terrain, it’s harshness, it’s strain.
Here’s a portion (of one version) of the introduction I’ve written to my book:
I live in the Pacific Northwest; a place known for its seemingly-endless rainy days, year-round green, water- and mountain-filled scenery. My true home, however, is the desert. I am well acquainted with its endless sands and scorching heat, its arid and desolate terrain, its eerie resemblance to the dry and barren spaces in my heart. It is a place of paradox: mirage and hope, drought and spring, death and life. As such, it is much like my experience of God: absent and present, hidden and revealed, confusing and faithful. It is home and I keep trying to escape: both this wasteland and this untamable, uncontrollable, unexplainable God. I cannot get away. Somehow, in these desert places, I hear God’s voice and hear God’s invitation more profoundly than anywhere else. The desert is the place in which I encounter God in unique and intimate ways…
Tonight I am definitely wandering the sands of my own mind and heart. I am wondering if I can go back to these deserts, if I can re-enter these wilderness places – in the hopes of redemption (for myself and others). Despite my attempts to flee, I hear its call. I feel the heat. And, truth-be-told, I don’t like the cold much. More from my intro:
…I have an unquenchable desire to flee its penetrating heat and I cannot escape its endless and provocative call, “Come. Stay. Rest. The desert is a taste of home.”
I have stayed – sometimes by choice, more times not. And surprisingly, I have not been alone. In the desert I have discovered amazing, courageous companions who have traversed these scorching sands with me. Some have journeyed with me in person; others in “text” – movies, novels, music, poetry, and particularly Scripture. Their voices have enabled me to take yet another step when everything in me wanted to quit, or at least bury my head in the sand. They have clarified the difference between reality and mirage. They have spoken of their own encounter with their God in these vast and lonely spaces. And they have provided me long seasons of rest and shade just by being themselves, telling their stories, and listening to mine. Most profound is that they have had no driving desire or intent to get me out of this seemingly-barren wilderness. They have simply stayed here with me. In so doing, they have embodied the God who does the same; the God who calls, “Come. Stay. Rest. The desert is a taste of home.”
I’m definitely wandering tonight, these days…wondering what new thing may yet be ahead, what streams may yet exist in the wasteland, what tender voice I might yet hear.
Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the desert, and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:14)
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this desert…that many of you have your own wanderings and wonderings, your own questions, your own hard stories within (and without) the church, Scripture, theology. I’d be honored if you’d let me in on those…You’re not alone, either.