Stripped down

A year ago, I knew my gifts and I was using them. Music. Leadership. Mentoring. Writing. Serving. I had just gotten comfortable in my role and I was almost certain I was at the point where God had intended me to be all along.

But something happened, and all of that slammed to a very sudden stop. With no Sunday band, I started composing again and playing classical music. With nothing at church to lead, I stepped full force back into schoolwork. With no one to mentor, more attention focused on my children and old friends crowded into the picture to fill those empty hours. Writing goes on here at my blog, and also for the textbook company I work for. Serving. Who do I serve? My family pops up again before my mind's eye. A few strangers perhaps He wants me to befriend.

And so God blesses me in a time when ministry options are slim. It's easy to get bogged down in hopelessness, powerlessness, feelings of failure and mistreatment. I'm quite sure some of those emotions were going through Jonah's head when he sat in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1 and 2). When he cursed God for taking away his shade while he waited (hopelessly) for Ninevah to fall (Jonah 4). It's easy to lose sight of the potential blessings when you think you are carrying out God's play (and perhaps you are) and all signs point that He had a different plan after all.

Think about the wilderness, how often people of God wander in it throughout the Bible. All the way back to Exodus, when the Israelites are delivered from Egypt and headed for Canaan, and end up wandering in the desert for 40 years. If that were the end of the story, we could clearly say, "Well, I guess THAT wasn't God's plan." Or, "I guess those Israelites really screwed up God's plan." But God is clearly sovereign, and uses every rabbit trail of human free will for His glory.

Not only that, sometimes He calls us to a season of solitude and renewal in the wilderness. Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus...all were called into the wilderness by God for a specific purpose, a "break" in their ministry that somehow contributed to their life of glory for God. Other examples dance out of the pages of the Old Testament:

  • Ezekiel, the "exile by the Chebar canal" (Ezekiel 1:1); 
  • Daniel, the captive in a hostile land; 
  • Hosea, specifically asked to marry a whore and conceive children with her who would be made examples to an entire land (Hosea 1:2-11), for the eventual (but then shrouded) purpose of restoring unity in a nation at odds with itself; 
  • Amos, a shepherd in the wilderness, comes forth to prophecy to an Israel gone rogue (Amos 1:1).

Have you been in the wilderness? Has God ever stripped you of what you thought was your calling and asked you to rest and wait for the new adventure just beyond the horizon? What if your "God given identity" is tied up in that lost ministry?
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:11-12
Were you called out of a wilderness, perhaps a wilderness of your own making, to a specific task for His glory? Perhaps God is asking you to share the story of your brokenness. Or to have confidence in sharing His word, which you learned backward and forward, even though you feel like the exile to whom no one would listen. Maybe He is asking you to speak to a group of people you detest, like Daniel, Jonah, and Paul did.

What is He using this wilderness for? Do you still see your purpose here in the desert, alone and stripped of your resources and your community?