“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” Hebrews 6:9 (ESV)
Free to Wander
As I journey way back in time – to the time of the Exodus in 1446 B.C. – a time when the Israelites left Egypt for the promised land, I am compelled to think about what they were leaving behind. You see, it tells of escape from slavery – getting out from under it all – going away – leaving miserable circumstances. Sounds wonderful to hear of a promise for new adventures and freedoms. New experiences, challenges, and expectations. A new life! Perhaps, though, the story is more about what happens after the “getting away” than the dramatic events of the escape. Perhaps it is more about learning how to be God’s people, how to follow Him – to delight, trust, and worship Him. To find their security in Him. Maybe it is about learning to navigate the freedom.
It reminds me of how God made a way for Jesus to break our bonds of sin to rescue us and give us freedom. God did that for me. I tried to keep it tucked behind the curtain, but now I invite you to come and see what God has done for this once lost, scared, and wandering child…
As the baby of the family, I was always loved. Always encouraged. Always uplifted, and always told that church was important. While my parents did not regularly attend church, I did. They either arranged for me to go with friends or I would go with family. It was when I would go with one special family member that I learned what it was to need my Savior. You see, we always sat in the back pew of the small, country, Roman Catholic church. I remember the priest preaching…yet I only heard the message being whispered in my five-year old ear:
- “Do you see that man on the cross?”
- “He isn’t on that cross anymore.”
- “He chose to leave his kingdom and come to earth.”
- “He chose to suffer and die on that cross for you.”
- “He did not stay on that cross.”
- “He rose and redeemed the people of the world – you need only believe it.”
There is something about the number five for me, because it was in the fifth grade that I finally understood what those whispered words meant, and I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior! I was free, but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t really know why, and I certainly didn’t know what to do with this freedom.
Moses reminded the Israelites of all that God did during the Exodus in Deuteronomy. He tells them, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of the Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV).
Free to Hide
The Israelites were chosen by God. They were given victory by God. They were simply loved by God. Not because they were great in number or in what they did. Not because of their faithfulness. They were set apart because of God’s faithfulness and His covenant – because of “…the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him..” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Something changed for the Israelites when they gained their freedom – first they rejoiced…then they wandered…
Something changed for me after I got saved. First, I rejoiced…then, instead of surrendering all to Christ’s freedoms, I too chose to wander in darkness.
I became a great hider. After all, I learned this from my ancestors…Adam and Eve. “…they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Our sin makes us want to hide, just as the first man and woman wanted to hide from the Creator, but He pursued them even in their sin.
For years, I just wanted the “truth” of my life to be hidden behind a curtain – shrouded. But the time has come to share what is behind that curtain – to show what my God has done…
I have very few memories during my years of hiding, which began sometime during the eighth grade and continued into my 20s. I still struggle to remember, and God reveals as He sees fit. All my energies were directed at ensuring that no-one would ask questions. I lived my life going through the motions. Had to be sure that everything looked great – by the world’s standards it surely did. I went to church every Sunday and stayed “squeaky clean”: got all A’s, was a very happy cheerleader, played in the band, and ALWAYS had a smile on my face.
Funny thing is, I became adept at hiding from myself too. I do remember loving music. I played piano, clarinet, and tenor saxophone. I was blessed to play with the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Michigan State University Marching Band, and was invited to tour Europe as a member of the United States Collegiate Wind Bands – I didn’t go. I don’t share this to build myself up, I share it because these were all gifts that God offered, and I could NOT see it. I always felt that I just did it, so I had something to hide behind. I was like those Israelites. Instead of being excited, I chose fear and ran from the gift. I did NOT believe that God would or could do anything with it and certainly did not use the gift for His glory.
I just had to be good and fun, so no-one would know. But what was I hiding…
Well, certainly no-one could know that my dad was disengaged – distracted by alcoholism and self-gratification. And yet, he always tried to build me up and tell me “you can do anything” – although that statement was missing a key ingredient…Christ.
Certainly, no-one could know that alcohol numbed my mom’s pain from a broken marriage, disrespect, and no way to find her worth. I was sure that I would be taken away if they knew that I tucked her in by 8:00 every night and went out to pursue my own mind-numbing pursuit of secret drinking. She always would say, “Don’t be like me.”
Another certainty is that there is praise to be had. I praise the Lord, that despite their struggles, they tried to build me up and in their later years, both came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and both now live with Him in glory.
Time Always Moves Forward
I met the man who was to be my future husband while I was in high school – we were friends throughout those years and in 1988, three years after my graduation, we were married. We were quickly blessed with a growing family. In five and one-half years we had five children. This also came as a blessing in disguise as it curbed and ended my developing and destructive drinking pattern. There were challenges too – our second child died during childbirth – somehow, we clung to a Lord we barely knew.
In terms of parenting – we didn’t know a thing.
In terms of raising up godly children – we didn’t know a thing.
We were both raised in the Roman Catholic faith – and I am grateful for the structure of that – but we didn’t know a thing.
We knew nothing and nowhere else, so we continued to faithfully attend mass and the sacraments and bring our children up through the catechism… But God knew!
Even though I felt I had no idea what I was doing, God gave me His Word…instruction straight from Him. So, I read and started to see that things just weren’t quite lining up. Our family had many evenings sorting through His Word to discern how to handle one situation or another. I needed to learn more. I had no idea where to turn, so I just kept reading.
God pursued me before I knew Him, just as He does all of humanity. AND God still seeks us out. Romans 5:8 confirms that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I would love to tell you about a grand awakening at this moment, but instead, my wandering continued. In March of 2002 I was driving along the Ohio Turnpike listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss-Wolgamuth on the radio when she said, “Are you His? Have you accepted Him? Are you serving Him?”
I was so convicted. So strong, that I literally had to pull off onto the shoulder. With a pounding heart I just knew – I NEEDED to serve HIM!
But perhaps I was imagining things? What did I know? I would never be able to serve Him…or would I? Fear took hold; settled in my soul, and I stuffed this desire deeply out of sight. I spoke it to no-one.
Just like the Israelites, though the Lord had set me free, I did not trust that His presence, provision, or protection were enough. Over-and-over again God showed His faithfulness, yet the Israelites (and I) grumbled, and complained, and lacked trust!
I feared the world more than I feared the Lord. To fear the Lord is to respect, obey, and worship Him. To forget the Lord is to disobey. I was disobedient! I kept wandering even though He had provided me with love, talents, and ability – all wasted by not using them for His glory. In fact, Proverbs 26:11 gets very explicit about my behavior when we read, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Wow! That was me – YIKES!
Oh, So Foolish
I only remembered insecurity and uncertainty in this world. I knew the contrast of parents between alcoholism and sobriety – unreasonable yet somehow offering security. I knew the dichotomy of the death of my sister in the chasm between twisted love and domestic violence. I knew the contradiction of joy and deep pain that existed between the anticipation of new life and emptiness of the cradle. I knew what it was like to be surrounded by people and feel utterly alone. I knew how to throw myself into work so that I could be anywhere but home with the people I loved desperately – surely, they were better without me.
I knew how to be a rock for everyone…I didn’t know how to run to the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.
Even though it was uncomfortable, this life I lived was familiar. That familiarity was more comfortable than the unknown. I truly believed that the only thing certain thing was that I was NOT worth knowing; I was NOT smart enough to serve Him. I was NOT strong enough. I simply was NOT. What I was, was weak and foolish.
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.’” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 30-31)
Do you know that the Bible tells us that God’s chosen people, the Israelites, wandered for 40 years? Well, I am happy to report that it only took me a total of 38 years to get from salvation to complete surrender!
On October 21, 2016, I was visiting with my dear friend (who also happens to be my sweet sister-in-love). Now we had talked for years about how we just know that God has work for us to do. We were preparing to go on our annual women’s retreat – The Harvest Retreat at Bambi Lake. It was at her kitchen table, overlooking the sun-lit lake that my heart heard, “…you have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go…” My God says, “See I have set the land before you, go in and take possession…” (Deuteronomy 1:6-8).
I stopped wandering that day and I hold fast to God’s promises and He continues to show Himself so faithful despite my years of faithlessness. He is my joy and my strength!
Lord, I cannot do this alone. I know your Word is true. I know that you are faithful. I know you will provide all I need. I give it all to you. I refuse to get in the way of all you have.
For Your glory and Your glory alone…I will go where You lead.
Free to Serve
And here I am, loving and serving Him in ways I could have never imagined. Because, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
I have learned that to navigate the freedom I have in Christ; I must know and believe that He is ALL I need; He is enough; His plans are best.
God is ALWAYS worth receiving because it opens the greatest gift: knowing and serving Him!
My prayer is that you have received a glimpse behind the curtain of an ordinary girl – scared, lost, and wandering – who has been incredibly blessed by binding her will to the will of our Creator. Anchored on the Rock! Becoming fearless. Determined to stand on His promises, go where He leads, Serve as He calls, and share His glory with all who have ears to hear.
With Proverbs 20:5 as my life’s mission, it is my greatest desire to come alongside generations of women and draw them out of the deep water as they acknowledge and fulfill their God-given purpose: to know Him intimately, love Him deeply, and serve Him on purpose.