From Michelle. 12 June, 2011.
Dear friends and family,
Today is a good day, my birthday. Greetings have arrived from around the world. I feel loved. Tomorrow we celebrate my son and my brother. The week will be capped off with the two year anniversary of Steve’s accident. It is a week, in other words, to take stock, to count blessings, to look back at a two year journey.
Two years is an artificial line to draw. The experience is, of course, folded into an entire life. For me, the journey began several years prior, in what I came to call my “good desert”. The desert has been less the location of my testing, and more the story of a God who has proven faithful. Because even deserts can be good with God, precious even, if we can embrace what they have to offer. In a sense, I began training years before. A wise friend sent my own words back to me the other day, words I wrote describing the beginning of that desert road. They still apply today:
“The soul, too, has a long list of travels, cultures, homes. I call it the “good desert”, this latest place I have been wandering for several years now, prior to the accident. It is a desert because the Lord has been working on my weaknesses. This is not an easy flourishing but a hard and determined growth in a dry soil. I have just enough water, but never too much. Friends leave fast, so that I must rely on him. My strengths don’t help me here. I have to exercise the weaker muscles, those neglected because I did not need them where I flourished.
In this patch of parched earth, I am getting stronger. Mostly, my strength is not my own. So, I call it good because I have to lean hard and push deep. My soul’s roots spread wider, plummet depths hitherto unknown to find water. I am happy with a few precious drops. I learn to obey in order to survive. I am disciplined by the absence of ease.
Perhaps I was training for now. Well acquainted with the ends of my own reserves and the beginning of his, it is all too familiar to open my hands and simply receive. I am not running in circles of worry, trying too hard, tiring myself out. I am doing what I can. He will do the rest. I am prepared for a long journey. I do not expect an oasis. But I know there will be enough water for the trip.
This is the gift of the wilderness, finding the end of yourself and the beginning of him. When I am riding on my strengths, when life is plentiful and abundant, I am quick to forget who carries me, who provides. Even as the landscape grows harsh, it takes time before I kneel to ask for help. But I have been wandering for awhile. My eyes have grown accustomed to the sharp reality of my weakness, his strength. I can live off of him for a long time. Forever.”
Today, as I take stock, I give thanks for the blessings of the wilderness. I am reminded of the value of the training, the preciousness of my thirst, the evolution of my trust. Without the desert, I would not know the presence in absence and the abundance in scarcity. I would not know with equal depth the eternal yes holding steady no matter the landscape.
I have been blown away lately by the reflections of A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God (free for your Kindle). In it there is a prayer that is well suited to the dry conditions of the desert, to thirst. It is my birthday wish. It goes like this:
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and left me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.