Promised Land or Wilderness?

This is something I wrote a couple of weeks ago closer to arriving back in South Africa. I hope it blesses you.

To give you a sense of where I’m coming from as I type this, I’ll let you know that I’ve just indulged in a hearty bout of tears. I’m now sitting on the floor in my room having prayed it out and am struggling to take the step of faith required to enter into the Promised Land. Isn’t it strange how what should be exciting can be the most daunting? I admit it – I’m scared.

I’ve just returned home from my shortest visit to Australia since leaving it for missions in 2008 – a trip which came after my longest stay away. As far as missionaries have it, God has blessed me with long stays in Australia and relatively short trips oversees of 6-18 months (the target for most seems to be a 2 month visit “home” every 2 years). My times in Australia have also been longer than the majority with God having me predominantly self-support and work for seasons of about 6 months in between each trip away.

Is the change of time frames what caused the crying? No. Is having a permanent home again after quite a few as a wanderer what’s upsetting me (I’ve set up home here and am about to marry a South African)? No. So what is wrong?

I’m at a cross road. I’ve done the required 40 days in the wilderness and now need to decide whether the giants in the “Land flowing with milk and honey” are too scary to face.

Promised land or wilderness wandering?

Promised land or wilderness wandering?

Australia in itself was not my “Egypt” in which I was enslaved. I grew up fearful of risk when it is a core element in my DNA. I feared losing the very things that made me feel trapped – a ten year plan, a step by step image of what my life was going to look like, and years of little change and no adventure before me. These things can be wonderful – but it wasn’t who God created me to be. If something makes me feel afraid, I want to conquer it. Missions helped me break away from my slavery to fear of risk and certainly removed any ability to plan (I still try, but none of my plans will eventuate).

My giants were not the Eygptians or leaving Egypt – leaving Australia for the mission field and being a “homeless” wanderer. My giants are setting up a new home. I left Egypt willingly, as did the Israelites, but will I enter the Promised Land just as willingly?

My fiancée lives in a beautiful area and has a beautiful home. It has many of the things that I dreamed of as a girl – including a mother who loves and owns horses. And yet I find myself desiring to run away from it all (with him) back into the transitory seasons of temporary homes in different countries.

The problem is that I have become comfortable in the wilderness. Building a life in one place seems daunting. I’ve made some deep, life-long friendships in missions, but these relationships usually form in a different way. In many ways there also seems to be less pressure because you usually know that the season is short and so there is always the option of drifting away if you don’t get close or don’t “quite fit” personality wise with the people around you. On the other hand, you can get very close, very quickly.

Back to the crying. I’ve been grieving leaving friends and family in Australia. I had accepted not being part of every step of people’s journeys. I had accepted not being at weddings, funerals, births, or birthdays. I had accepted not being able to make a cup of tea for a close friend going through a hard time, or having after-church coffees regularly with Mum. What I hadn’t counted on as my giants in the Promised Land were being open to making new long term, equally close friendships, and laying permanent foundations in a new community.

It’s not from a sense of guilt “betraying” Australian friends and I know that they want me to form such friendships here. Perhaps it is from loyalty being lived out in the wrong way. Perhaps it is fear of reaching out here and then failing to form close friendships. It doesn’t matter the reason, I know that I am at a turning point. I can self-preserve and not risk friendships, or I can step out and make new ones. I can enter the Promised Land and trust God to knock the giants on their big behinds, or I can wander in a wilderness for forty years. I think the most confronting thing has been God showing me that it could be a literal forty years. I know that there are many people who move away from the familiar and who never find that sense of belonging again. As believers we are wanderers in a foreign land, but at the same time we are called to engage with those in our locality. We are called to be lights to those around us. And we are called to encourage and uplift our fellow believers.

I am still grieving what I will miss out on in the lives of my Australian friends and family, but I choose to celebrate the coming friendships that will be forged here in the beautiful Drakensberg where God has made my Promised Land, my home.

There will be challenges in every season, but with God we shall overcome! For you it might not be a move in physical location, but any big change in our lives brings challenges. I encourage you to trust God to defeat your giants – a new workplace, an unexpected pregnancy, your role at church, new neighbours etc. Think about what is causing fear or uncertainty in your life. Perhaps you have already been in the wilderness for 10 years, hiding from taking those next steps forward. I admire your courage for leaving your “Egypt”, now complete your journey and enter your “Promised Land”.

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One thought on “Promised Land or Wilderness?

  1. Shannon, thank you for sharing. This has encouraged me, as Andre and I are looking to our next step, which may very well include moving to a new, unknown place, leaving everyone behind and having to make our own way in a new community. I’m saving this post for future reference 🙂 Lots of love to you xo

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