Friday, September 5, 2008

On the other side of the wilderness...

In 2001, a little over a month after my 1st baby was born, I embarked on an epic (for me anyhow) journey to a distant land. My quest was three-fold 1) Conquer the mountain 2) Encounter God 3) Come back in one piece. I was successful.

Many people have gone on Wilderness Trek and lived to tell about it, so I wasn't really worried that I wouldn't make it. Then again, everyone had an opinion about it. One of the ladies at church expressed skepticism,
She: "Jeff, I heard you are going to climb a mountain with the youth group?"
Me: "Yes, we're all pretty excited about it!"
She: "Oh, um... it is just that.... well, I thought you had to be in shape to do that sort of thing."

ouch... Anyhow, I knew I'd be ok, physically. I was concerned for my wife and baby with me being gone for a week. I was concerned for the kids that we were taking with us. I was excited and nervous all at the same time.

The week was fantastic. Our guides were remarkable, they guided us not only up the mountains but through the process of changing our perceptions. For some in our group, it was a time to face physical limitations and overcome them. For others, it was a time to recognize the social barriers that prevented close friendships. For all of us, it was a time to recognize the beauty and majesty of God in the mountains of Colorado.

Over the course of 6 days, our goal was to hike and camp on the 2nd tallest mountain in the lower 48: Mt. Elbert! Unfortunately, on our summit day (pictured above), a storm moved in and prevented us from reaching the peak, so we had to have a quick picture and then hot-foot it back to the tree line. It was an amazing experience, one I'll not soon forget.

The Bible has a lot to say about wilderness experiences. It is a common metaphor used to convey the change process for God's chosen people. For some characters in the Bible story, it was an actual wilderness (Read Exodus, if you like) and for others, it took on different forms. Basically, it is a time of testing our faith and our reliance on God. Can we be trusted to trust God to be faithful?
In therapy, we talk a lot about the process of change and how it happens. Many people come to counseling because they get stuck in the process of living and can't seem to move on. They get lost in their wilderness wanderings and don't know how to find the other side of the wilderness, the land flowing with God's blessings. Some begin to doubt it exists. They are OK with the idea of complaining to God about their situation, but they've forgotten his promises.

I don't feel like I am in a wilderness, per se, but I do feel like I'm being tested. Instead of removing all the luxuries in life to help me rely on him, it feels like God is allowing Satan to fill my life with stuff and busy-ness so that God's influence will be choked out of my life simply by my trying to do keep up.

Change me, O Lord. Mold me and shape me daily, to conform to the image of your Son. Don't let the worry and busy-ness of my life sprout up as weeds to choke out the seed you have planted in me. Give me of your living water and let me grow in your light.


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