By Krissa Rumsey
Close your eyes and imagine the wilderness. Do you see trees? Mountains? Rocky crags? Dense and impassable brush? Bugs?
On Sunday, Pastor Matt’s wilderness image was of a desert, lacking water, open to predators. He described the wilderness as a place that lacks resources. When my kids were little, we ventured into a corn maze. We couldn’t find our way out. It grew dark. It grew cold. No one was dressed properly. It was no longer fun and the one resource we needed was a map.
The truth of the matter is that we did actually have a map, but you had to pay $1 for it if you used it. If you didn’t open it, you could return it and get your money back. I’m cheap and stubborn. I wanted the dollar and didn’t want help.
However, after two hours, I caved, and we used our resource. One mid-corn bathroom break later, we walked out of the maze. Sometimes when I picture a wilderness, I picture that corn.
Do you ever visualize wilderness as a suburban neighborhood? Or how about a quant, small town, with good schools and friendly neighbors? Is your wilderness full of activities? Does it require you to be there from 8 – 5 (or longer) each day? Does your wilderness require medication and treatment and therapy?
On Monday night, I attended a meeting of several women in my community who, together, lead our local American Heritage Girls scouting program. American Heritage Girls (AHG) is a national organization that presents a faith-based approach to scouting. A few moms and I got together to form a troop three years ago for girls in the Milan area where we live. We met to plan the coming year and two of the moms, who had been with us since the inception of the troop, gave a testimony.
Both women (whom I will call Amy and Kim) are active, fun-loving moms who have fond memories of scouting as youth. They were asked to serve as troop leaders when our organization was being formed.
I knew they were uncomfortable with the faith-based aspect of the troop when we asked them to serve. They weren’t church-goers and hadn’t ever attended church regularly. My other friends (who were the key instigators of this troop) and I prayed that Amy and Kim would agree to serve anyway.
We told them they wouldn’t have to talk about God much. We could help with that. Unbeknownst to them, we were fervently praying that the Lord would reveal himself to them through their involvement. I never expected the testimony they both gave on Monday.
Amy shared that she had never really gone to church as a kid. She described her family as a Christmas and Easter family. When she was married as an adult she specifically asked the pastor not to be to “churchy” with the ceremony. A few years later, she and her husband decided to start a family.
Soon after the birth of their second child, Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy, underwent chemo, and struggled to get healthy while caring for her infant daughter. She recalls people saying they would pray for her. Amy would thank them and think to herself “God doesn’t even know me…why would He listen to their prayers?”
Amy cried as she described feeling completely far away from God and assumed He didn’t care what happened to her. As her children grew older, she wanted to introduce them to God somehow. Maybe God didn’t care about her, but surely He would care about her kids.
She recalls people saying they would pray for her. Amy would thank them and think to herself “God doesn’t even know me…why would He listen to their prayers?
Kim was raised by a church-going mom and non-church going father. As Kim grew up, she became rebellious and ran far away from God. She got married and lived a fun-filled life with her new husband and their two incomes. She felt completely in control and liked where their life was headed.
But then, the children they wanted didn’t come so easily. It took a while, but they finally had a child and twins followed shortly thereafter. While Kim was on bed rest, pregnant with her twins, both she and her husband lost their jobs. They were most definitely not in control. The marriage suffered.
Kim wanted to walk away from all of it and remembers feeling very alone. She didn’t have any friends to speak of. Though she was surrounded by other moms from her kids’ school and activities, she did not consider them friends she could turn to for support.
Kim knew she had turned her back on God and probably missed her chance with Him, but she didn’t want her kids to do the same. Both Amy and Kim came to their leadership roles with AHG feeling alone, rejected, reluctant, and seeking.
Amy and Kim were in the wilderness. Though they had homes, communities, and families, they lacked their most important resource: knowing the unconditional and irresistible love of Jesus. American Heritage Girls served as a vessel drawing them into a relationship with other Christians, drawing them in to a church home and ultimately drawing them into a relationship with their Savior.
They both began attending services at the church that has been sponsoring our troop since it was formed. Amy and Kim began sending their kids to the youth programs there and they both started attending a weekly Bible study together. Amy will be baptized next month and Kim has reaffirmed her commitment to Christ. She described having real friends for the first time in a long time.
Amy and Kim were in the wilderness. Though they had homes, communities, and families, they lacked their most important resource: knowing the unconditional and irresistible love of Jesus.
I have been through my own wilderness experiences (which I’ve shared in past blogs). As with Amy and Kim, those experiences have drawn me closer to Christ, connecting me to people who are “on my rope.” As Pastor Matt explained, we are not walking through the wilderness alone. Jesus walks with us and often, He sends his people to be resources for those who don’t have any.
You never know what someone’s wilderness looks like…maybe it’s well-manicured and air-conditioned, or maybe it’s full of doctor’s appointments and question marks. Whatever it looks like, the Lord promises that we are not alone. He is the resource we need and He is always there.