Mercy. It’s the first request that comes out like a breath when I go to pray. Why am I asking for mercy? My heart is a mystery to me. Show me what’s going on, Holy Spirit. To be honest, there have been so many moments of shock and flashbacks lately when I remember what I left behind. Because we left in such a hurry, I can’t remember. Did I get that piece of jewelry that was special to me? Did I say goodbye to everyone well? Could I have managed to pack my good knives after all? After all, knives in the wilderness are hard to come by. That was foolish to leave those. And what about the candlesticks that I borrowed? Did I remember to give those back? Some of my friends in Egypt thought I was crazy to leave. Maybe I was, but I had to.
Still, my heart is not at peace inside me. I do not boast about it nor deny the truth. I feel the lack of basic comforts. I feel the helplessness and frustration of not being able to solve my own problems out here. I guess you like it when we need you? And we have no choice out here but to need you. I don’t know why I have this resistance to needing you for everything. Maybe in truth, I don’t feel like you give us enough—enough direction, enough long-term vision, enough water and food. It always feels like just bare minimum. I feel like you could do more if you wanted. I hear the pride in my heart. I hear my lack of thankfulness. I feel how it’s making my neck stiff and less flexible to move to the sound of your voice.
Adonai, see my heart. I humble myself to open it up to you willingly, ashamed of what I know you will find there. Be in me and with me and over all my doubt and worry. I crown you king over it all right now. You are worthy of my song. You are worthy of my life, wherever you might lead us from here. Make my heart ready to receive all you have for us. I know what it does to be ruled by fear and I do not want that anymore.
Worry is the thing that makes people fear their poverty. If we believe you love us enough to take care of us, that faith lets us settle down into the stripped-down essentials. Like a camel squeezing through the eye of the needle, we circumcise our hearts, shaved thin of everything we thought we needed but didn’t really. Man, I loved that couch, that view, that food, that job, that guitar, that necklace, those clothes, the infrastructure, highways, waterways, healthcare systems that made things just work. There was shopping at my fingertips—everything I needed I could find. It’s not that I regret leaving. I had to leave to be free, but there were things that I really loved there. But just the essentials, food and clothing, a tent that moves when you do—why does my pride well up in me when I consider this simple provision is your gift to us in this season?
If I could just lower my sense of entitlement and expectation to be content with just food, clothing, my tent; then I would be able to stop worrying. For these things, food, water, and clothing you have been faithful to provide. Even my shoes are not wearing out. If I could be content, then I will have won victory over fear, and gained the faith that moves mountains of stubbornness in my heart. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Make mine real and not just words. I accept this temporary poverty as a gift. So we have no furniture. So what? We can sit on the floor and have a picnic feast. I’m sorry I give you a list of “bare minimums” I expected of you beyond my freedom, food, water, clothes, and a tent. That may have been presumptuous. It’s just that I don’t know how to live without those things. I feel like I am two years old again.
Have mercy, Adonai. You must know it’s nearly impossible for us who have tasted rich food, slept in beautiful mansions, owned much land to become just—yours. To just be satisfied in you as our portion, to accept you as enough for us. I’m sorry, but I cannot lie before you. I have seen you as lacking. And it is my image of you that needs to be healed. I have lived in a land of fear and slavery for too long. I come from Egypt, from Babylon, from opulence. I come from a culture of many gods. I have worshiped more gods in my ignorance than I even realized.
Have mercy. You saw what we did. You saw how we left that place, satisfied for five minutes to be free. Thankful for a day, a week, a month. Then thankfulness was killed by fear. I don’t know how we failed so soon in our faithfulness. Instead of bowing down to what we cannot see, I took our gold and put it in front of me. And I made a false image of you, even here, in this place where I was meant to meet you and serve in purity and thankfulness.
Why did I build the golden calf? I’m not even sure. To memorialize what I left? Because it’s all I know? Because the only worship I understand is false worship? Because I am trying to sacrifice in a way to get you to move faster?
But I’m so sorry that I failed so soon. I’m sorry I didn’t see it before until my idolatry was set up right before my eyes, in the shadow of your mountain. I am ashamed because I only know how to worship an image of you that I know how to make. A god of gold. A god of contractual blessing. “If I do things right, I will have enough to be blessed and prosperous.” Who am I to think I can manipulate the creator like clay? We are not in a contractual relationship. You have called us bride, sons and daughters, chosen ones. We are already blessed and prosperous. You are our portion. We are full, not empty.
The calf is made from discontentment, from taking our eyes off of your holy mountain. I’ve been seeing it wrong in my immaturity, in my independence. You take no pleasure in my sacrifice or offering. Legalism says “I’ve done this for you, God, now you owe me.” I am embarrassed and terrified by my arrogance.
Yahweh, you don’t owe me anything. I owe you. I owe you my life. I lost sight of it for a minute, or a month or so. Does your patience have no end? You set me free from a life of slavery to money, to man, and to sin. Now I am not constrained by any of those anymore. The only response to that kind of miraculous mercy and deliverance is a life insistently and enduringly flowing in thankful worship. I love you. I am all yours.
No! I laugh to think it. You do not desire my gold, in the form of a calf, or any other form. What is gold to you? You own the cattle on a thousand hills. Here is what you are teaching us out here. Sacrifice is not the end goal. The end goal is you and I being close, from a mutual choosing, without the pressure that discontentment brings to a relationship. So today, I repent, again. How great is your mercy, Yahweh. If I have food and clothing I will be content.
I will quiet my soul like a weaned child. For a child who is not weaned cannot be close to the mother without trying to suckle. It is a frantic, instinctual, animal search for comfort and provision. But a child who is weaned can wait confident that the mother will give food and drink when it’s time. So that child can just be with the mother in contentment, making no demands of her body. Today, I reject panic. I accept your good provision. I am learning so slowly. Have mercy.
In truth, what you have done for us is a story for the ages. Give me your perspective. What are you accomplishing in us in this wilderness? How is this time intended for undistracted worship preparing us for being planted in the land? Remind me that lack is always temporary and usually a misperception. I have set my heart on pilgrimage and put my hand to the plow. I will not look back. You have my heart. I am sorry for withholding it from you and I reject the temptation to fear and worry. Help me endure. Help us see how great you love is for us. I think If I could keep that in front of me, it would be enough. The solution to idolatry is seeing you rightly and hearing your voice. Let me hear your voice. Teach me more about you. I am not content to stay distanced from your mountain. Let me into the tent of meeting. By the blood of the Lamb, I remember my position as a daughter, and I enter your holy presence with bold confidence. I bow down in the holy place, at your throne, at the mercy seat. I renounce all I had in Egypt all over again, and I lay my desires before you, labeling them correctly now as desires, not needs. I will follow you like Moses leans on you as his staff, like a bride leans on her beloved. Hold me up too. Take care of my family too. Teach us to be content so we can fully appreciate your gifts. I am learning that humbling my heart in repentance and contentment must come before thankfulness and true worship. I purpose in my heart fresh today, to worship you and serve you only with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Purify my intentions and motives so I can walk blameless and uprightly before you. Give me an undivided heart. Anoint me with the oil of joy in your presence. I return to trust.
2 thoughts on “A Confession from the Wilderness”
Wow, just wow. I feel all these words. I resonate with them. Thank you for expressing so clearly your heart that is the heart of those of us who follow Him into the great unknown. It’s worth it. It’s so worth it. He is worth it.
He is! And I’m so glad you can relate. It’s a beautiful hard thing you guys are doing and we are praying for you!