|Transformation is in the Journey…
It was a hard and harsh life for the Hebrew people as slaves in Egypt. So the people cry out to God and He hears their cry. God says to them in Exodus 3:7: “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” I need to pause and reflect for a moment: God hears the cries of His people; He raises up a deliverer Moses; He demonstrates mighty acts of power through the plagues; and He delivers the people from the hand of Pharaoh.
But this is what is interesting: they’re out of Egypt and on the way to the Promised Land – the distance from where they are to where they want to go is a mere 200 miles. That’s like nothing! That’s like Chicago to Grand Rapids, and I’ll let you decide which is the land of oppression and which is the promised land. The fastest way to the Promised Land is by an international trade route called the Way of the Philistines. It’s quick, great scenic views, but God doesn’t take the people of Israel that way. Instead, God takes them south into the desert to a place called Mount Sinai where they camp out for about a year. A two week journey has now become a year. “Are we there yet?” Now Deuteronomy 1:2 tells us that from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land is an 11-day journey. That’s less than two weeks to the Promised Land. Do you know how long it takes them from that point to get to the Promised Land? It takes 39 more years – a total of forty years wandering in the wilderness. Forty years in a hard, difficult, and uncomfortable place, a place where life can barely be sustained. Why are they in that place? It’s not because Moses stubbornly refused to ask for directions. I believe it’s because transformation happens in the wilderness. It happens in the journey as God graciously and mercifully intervenes along the way.
I have had times in my life and ministry where I felt like I was treading through the wilderness. Times when I introduced new initiatives and great plans with targeted goals to a consistory and the wheels came off in the first two months in carrying things out. Times when I was waiting for new ministry opportunities and the interview went well, but nothing happened. Times when I’ve had to confront broken relationships in my extended family, and feeling withdrawn from those I loved and cared – experiencing hurt, disappointment, and emotions shutting down. The time when the doctor said to my wife, “you have cancer”, and the waiting and the praying and the caring begins. Welcome to the wilderness!
As pastors and lay leaders most of us eventually land in the wilderness. It feels like failure; it feels lonely; it feels like being abandoned even by God – but I am convinced it’s about transformation in the journey for all those who emerge on the other side. Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak once asked a leader if he had any advice about his journey in the wilderness years. The leader responded with three questions:
- “How are you different because of your wilderness years?”
- “If I shared a cup of coffee with you, what life-advice would you share? Tell me what you learned in the wilderness.”
- “Lessons learned in the wilderness are preparation for what’s next.” “The journey is the answer.” (I would add, what God teaches us in the journey is the answer.)
Then Rockwell says this about wilderness wisdom:
- Personal identity depends less on others. Approval is wonderful. But, after the wilderness, you see and know yourself more clearly.
- Focus shifts from you to others. When you begin, it’s all about you. After the wilderness, it’s about others.
- Hearing expands. Before the wilderness, you know. After the wilderness, you listen, even though you know more.
- Passion emerges. New things are born after the wilderness.
The wilderness is a place of strength of character, emerging passion, and clarity of purpose. It’s a place where we are reminded of God’s power and His provision and His care and His compassion and His love and His faithfulness. You see for the Hebrew people, the Nile River Valley in Egypt, because of the plagues, that fertile place where there should have been food, there wasn’t. But in the desert, that barren place where there shouldn’t have been any food, God provided manna. It’s the Bible’s way of saying that when everything is going good in your life, the most favorable circumstances without God is actually a place of death. While in the worst circumstances with the presence of God in the wilderness is a place of life, and strength, renewed passions, and growth. None of us have really lived until we’ve experienced the thought that we might not make it through the wilderness. What have you learned in the wilderness?
–Wayne Van Regenmorter
23: Transformed and Transforming Google Hangout
24-26: RCA KEZ Retreat/ Chicago, IL
27: Renewal and Leadership Development Gathering/First Reformed Church/Tampa, FL
28: Consistory Retreat/Heartland Community Church/Lafayette, IN
1: Sunday Worship
2: Pastors Learning Event/Second Reformed Church/Fulton, IL
3: Synod Executive Team Go-to-Meeting
4: Illinois Executive Committee Meeting/Second Reformed Church/Fulton, IL
6: Meeting/Downers Grove, IL
8: Sunday Worship
9: Meeting/Camp Manitoqua/Frankfort, IL
10: Wisconsin Classis Meeting/New Hope Community Church/Wausau, WI
11: Meeting/Dyer, IN
14: Travel Day
15: Congregation Meeting/Reformed Community Church/Venice, FL
Wayne’s contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281