been there before. Once you've been to this place in your walk, it's not hard to recognize your surroundings once you arrive again. You arrive with some parts excitement (the desert is always a place of deep learning) and some parts trepidation (it's never easy).
Imagine getting on a plane in the North and getting off in the South on the same day. The air when you arrive is thick with humidity and those first few moments kind of take your breath away. It takes some getting used to and once you acclimate, you either accept the heat and continue on or you gripe and complain, either way the heat is unaffected. The desert is no different.
Begrudgingly, I've marched on. Our church, the one I've been apart of for 14 years is undergoing some changes. Not bad changes, but changes. Having "grown up" in this church, the changes feel a lot like what I would imagine a treasured family home being sold off. There is a process to change and part of that is mourning. Part of that change is that people will not like it. People like same. Assumptions and perceptions take over and people make choices based on those criteria. Right or wrong, people have left because of those changes. I've lost a lot of people from my life because of these choices, based on perceptions. It's been drastic and hard and I've cried a lot of tears. But, for me, it comes down to "I know God has called me to this church" and therefore I stand behind our pastor, his family and the changes to my family home.
But, it's still the desert.
Fast forward to yesterday. The VERY FIRST Sunday I left church without a heavy feeling since September. Like finally, some of the weight was being lifted, the air wasn't quite as thick, healing had begun. I was excited and joyful as I left yesterday. I foolishly thought "maybe the desert time is coming to an end". Turns out that was just a mirage. I ended my night in tears as I fell asleep, having been treated poorly but someone based on their perception of me. Their actions inflicted on me left me confused and deeply hurt.
And as I lay there last night, I begged God from my hurt, "show me how to use this pain, teach me here", which is how the desert works best. And He lovingly answered that humble prayer.
So I lay there. Thinking about the day, the lesson from church, why was this so painful to me, etc. We talked, yesterday in church, about what we value. And it dawned on me "I value being liked". Having grown up in an environment where I didn't feel very liked at home or at school, as an adult, I put a lot of hope on being liked by others. This recent persons actions screamed at me "I DON'T LIKE YOU, GO AWAY!" and that hit me in my values.
"So, what God? She doesn't like me. How do I make that OK? How do I learn to be OK with the fact that you made me who I am, a person I KNOW is loving, cares about others, helps where they can and DOES as you say as often as I know to AND STILL ISN'T LIKED, how do I not care?!".
And I clearly heard "You're collecting too much Manna". Of course God would speak to me through Exodus, my all time desert scripture learning ground.
Exodus 16:19-20 says "Moses said to them, “Don’t take more than you need.” But they didn’t listen to Moses. A few of the men kept back some of it until morning. It got wormy and smelled bad."
God was good enough to expand on this thought as I lay there trying to sleep. The more He unpacked it for me, the slower my heart rate got, the sharpness of the hurt left me. He answered my prayer "to use this pain for growth".
Here's what I heard.
God has given us instructions on what to do with each of our days. A manna jar to fill, if you will. Each morning the jar is empty and we fill it, as He instructs, with who we are to spend time with and what we are to do with that time. Some days He calls us to clean the house, take dinner to a friend, write a letter to a long lost someone, spend the day at home, etc. Each day is different and each daily jar is filled in an endless combination of ways. He is very clear to us to only fill the jar so much, as much as we need for the day and not take on too much.
But sometimes we ignore that. Sometimes we chase people we aren't supposed to. Sometimes we pursue friendships that are not meant to be or take jobs we aren't meant to have. Sometimes we fill it with things *we think* will make us happy but in the end, since we are adding more to our jar then we need or adding things we shouldn't, it gets wormy and starts to smell bad. We pursue relationships that we shouldn't and are surprised when we get hurt in the process. We fill our jars with fast food and soda and are shocked when we gain weight. We spend the day watching TV and can't believe when, at the end of the day, our jars are filled with worthless nothings.
And sometimes the things we fill the jar with are things that look harmless enough, but like in my example, I put myself in a position to be really hurt because I just wanted to fill my jar with being liked. I didn't overexert myself, in fact I can't remember the last time I talked to this person, yet I had put myself enough on her radar that she felt it necessary to go out of her way to hurt me in a way that took a little bit of "clever" work. And I practically did that to myself, in order to fill my jar in the way that I saw fit.
The point is awareness. He has called us to fill our manna jars in a certain way, too much and things will get wormy and start to smell bad. Sometimes our hurt is our own fault, because we think we know better. We never do.
So after all of that, does it still hurt? Well, yes. It's going to take some healing, both now and in the future BUT the lesson will stick with me. If we mis-fill our jars, our responsibility is to own up to it, ask for forgiveness and get back to only filling it as much as we are called.
I know now to be careful of what I put in my jar, to be aware of my tendency to want to be liked, to make sure I am only pursuing people that God has called me to pursue.
And while I sure wish God would prefer to teach me someplace a little nicer than the desert, at the end of the day, it's more like my old family home than anywhere else I know.