Growing Up in the Wilderness but not Settling

I have a soft spot in my heart for individuals who grew up in muddled and chaotic environments. Not just because it was my starting place, but I genuinely empathize mainly because those who have grown up in such environments often come into the world with a deficit of tools and skills needed to help them thrive in our societies. Unless someone steps in and give them what they need to help rise above adverse circumstances and future pitfalls, they eventually learn later in life through their own struggles and consequences of their actions, from what some may refer to as, the “hard knocks” of life.  Studies reveal that children who grow up in abusive, neglectful or otherwise, unstable and chaotic homes are more likely to experience various developmental delays, emotional instability such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide attempts- along with engaging in risky behaviors (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016; Finkelhor, Turner, Shattuck, Hamby, 2015; Danese, Moffitt, Harrington, Milne, Polanczyk, Pariante, et al, 2009). I want to stress that although this is not the “end all be all” for every person who is born into the world with deficits, I am saying that these are typical barriers for children who do live in such environments. Nonetheless, such obstacles can be overcome if we choose to turn to God!

Let’s Look at Ishmael’s Life.

Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s slave, Hagar, was born into a messy love triangle where his mother lived in contempt of her master after becoming pregnant with him. Ishmael was conceived out of an agreement between Abraham and Sarah that consisted of Abraham taking Sarah’s slave-girl, Hagar, as a wife to have a baby, which resulted in the conception of Ishmael (Gen. 16:4 CLASB). You would think that this would have made Sarah happy seeing as though this was her idea. Instead, Sarah grew distressed because Hagar’s attitude towards her changed when she found out she was pregnant. This same passage insinuates that Hagar grew haughty from her ability to conceive a child for Abraham and often forgot that her pregnancy was an arrangement, therefore, she was still under the authority of Sarah. Because Sarah grew weary of Hagar’s disrespectful and flagrant behavior, in return she used her authority to abuse Hagar. As a result, Hagar ran away. Although God found Hagar and told her to return and submit to Sarah’s authority, she returned home with the same attitude towards Sarah which allowed chaos to remain in Abraham’s household. Can you imagine being born into such mayhem? Although Ishmael was an only child for a while, I picture him having to grow up watching his mother cry bitter tears of resentment towards his father for being his mistress and his wife’s slave- while coveting Sarah’s authority of being a wife. I also picture him having to grow up, watching his father, Abraham, being torn between two women and being shown affection by Abraham, to the extent Sarah would allow. Ishmael grew up in a chaotic and emotionally unstable home. Unfortunately, as the text continues, we see that Ishmael becomes a product of his mother’s animosity towards Sarah.

By the time Ishmael was thirteen years old, he was sharing his home with his half-brother Isaac, who was finally conceived by Sarah. However, Isaac chose to follow in his mother’s footsteps of bitterness and resentment by taunting his little brother during a celebration. Sarah saw Ishmael and Hagar taunting Isaac. Sarah was used to Hagar’s spiteful gestures but when she saw Ishmael joining, she demanded them both to leave her home (Gen. 21:8-11 CLASB). Abraham reluctantly, yet agreed for Ishmael to leave his home where he wondered (and eventually settled), in the wilderness “aimlessly” with his mother (vs. 14). Instead of Ishmael, learning to trust in the God of his father, to direct his path and make sense of his life outside of his mother’s baggage, his behavior lead him to a place that was uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable- the wilderness.

Although it was not God’s will, He foreknew that Ishmael was going to be born into this world having to deal with the rejection of his father and the emotional instability of his mother and as a result, he would have issues with anger and violence while living in public hostility against his family members (Gen. 16:11-12 CLASB). However, Ishmael eventually settled in the wilderness, not because he was born into a family of turmoil, but because he chose to conform to his mother’s lifestyle of contempt.

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Wondered, Grew Up, but Don’t settle!

I want to point some things out in this story that is vital for us all to take heed to: Being that Ishmael was only thirteen when he was forced out of his father’s house with his mother, we can conclude that he didn’t know any better. I believe he taunted his brother because he was only practicing learned behavior by his mother- It was personal for his mother but Ishmael didn’t know anything different. However, when he saw his father, the man from whence he came, pack his bag and sent him away with no certainty- life at that moment had just gotten personal for Ishmael! I can imagine Ishmael frantically pleading with his father, ‘How can you choose between me and my brother? My mother and I were just joking!… I’m your first-born child… Do you not love me like you love Isaac?… Please give me answers father!… Why am I leaving?… I am still young and my mother can’t teach me how to be a man… please don’t leave me impoverished… I love you father… do you not love us enough to give us another chance?’– with no response.

Often, we grow up not having the answers to why we were treated unfairly by those we love, why we were abused or abandoned, negatively labeled and the like- as a result, we often resent how we came into this world and find ourselves wondering aimlessly through life, trying to find someone or something to “fix” us. Yet God promises to give us beauty for our sorrows and he will cause us to overlook the shame and dishonor that is attached to our childhood and bless us when we look to him (Isa. 54:4; 61:3). When we don’t learn how to trust God to heal our past and direct our future, we may find ourselves not only wondering in the wilderness but growing up and settling there.

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Do I want to be Accepted or Changed?

Hay Family!

I’ve missed writing to you but I’ve not been totally absent. My sweet sister in Christ, Jodie Dye has allowed me to guest post on her blog a couple of times recently. So I want to share with you, my heart via her site:

Source: Do I want to be Accepted or Changed?

I pray everyone is doing well and that these two latest posts will encourage you or someone you know.

Stay in His Peace,

Thasia Awad

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Who is My Mother and My Brother?

It is my delight to introduce to you a guest blogger, Thasia Awad of Lord Make Me Good Ground. Thasia is a beautiful writer, and a motivational speaker. Thasia (Aka Tay) does a great job of documen…

Source: Who is My Mother and My Brother?

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If It’s Not My Problem, Is It Still My Issue?

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I was driving my kids to school this morning and I decided to turn on the radio to listen to a little music then the news came on. The headline was in reference to the Brussels attack in Belgium. So, of course I listened intensely to see if there were possibly any new details to the cause of the brutal outbreak. Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the news that I forgot that my children were also listening until my five-year-old said, “Mama, can you please turn that off? Somebody said people got killed and died and it’s making me sad.”

My heart immediately filled with sorrow for my son then I responded, “I’m sorry baby! I’ll turn it off now!” After I turned off the radio he then indicated to me that he didn’t want me to turn off the radio but he only wanted to listen to “something good”. So I turned the radio back on and turned it to another Christian station- something good.

However, while I was driving, my heart shifted towards the victims who simply couldn’t change their receiver to something good. My heart was towards the children whose parents could not change their radio station. While I’m able to shield my children from the horror of others realities, there are mothers right now-all over the world- who have the brutal task of telling their children, ‘I can’t change your radio station baby, this is our reality’. I get to shield my children, while they must teach their children to hide, fight and protect themselves at all cost.

I changed my radio station for my children so that they can receive something that was good to their ears and medicine to their souls. As they danced around in the car, guilt then started to overwhelm me- not because I have the luxury of shielding my children from such heinous acts of hate- but because I realized that this is what most of us do- we change the station on our neighbors who are hurting. Somehow we think that if it’s not our problem then it’s not our issue– But the contradiction in this is that when it becomes a problem for us personally, then we want it to be everyone’s issue. Yes, all of this was going on in my mind and I had to do a “selfie-check”. I changed the station for my children but I also realized that I have to find a way to let them know that life outside of them still can affect them-and that true living is when we learn how to live in such a way that it brings life to those who may be barely existing. So I stopped the car and let them know that the reality is that even though, we are safe and protected, there are other children and families in the world who aren’t and we must find ways to help bring protection to them so they will feel the same security we do- we then prayed and asked God to show us how to help our neighbors who are hurting.

When I think of all the misplaced Syrian refugees, the water crisis in Flint Michigan and many, many other brutal realities others are facing, I can’t help but to begin seeing myself through the eyes of those who are hurting, downtrodden, misplaced and abandoned. I chose to turn the radio station to something more pleasant for my children because no child should be subjected beforehand, to a hateful world they don’t even understand yet. But for the mothers and fathers who can’t change their radio station and guard their children from the cruelty of the world-I will keep my station turned on to you and your problems are my issues!!!

I will listen to what is going on with you-and although I may not have much to offer right now, I will give what I know I do have- I have my listening ears ready to hear how you can be helped and I have my voice that is ready to speak up and speak out about who you ALL are and what you need- and I have my God whom I will continue to call on to save us from the hands of our enemies.

It is my issue!

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I Understand. I Believe. I follow.

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Heart Change

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From the Wilderness to the Promised Land: Don’t Bring the Baggage!

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Lately I’ve been using this really neat app to video chat back and forth to a very dear friend of mine in South Carolina. It’s been so much fun getting to see her beautiful, bright-eyed face and her lovely family as I’ve not seen her in years. Since being adapted to this new technology, we’ve been video chatting every week- sometimes three or four times a day!

Not too long ago I went to an event where I was able to meet lots of new people doing lots of great things for God. I had a good time but came home a little overwhelmed and perplexed- but I didn’t know exactly why. So, I was getting ready to video chat with my friend to talk about each other’s day (as our new normal) but then I felt like I needed to first quiet myself and find out why I left the event deluged in my feelings. While reflecting on the evening, I suddenly realized that I’m overwhelmed because so many new things has been taking place in my life. I’m surrounded by new people who hardly know me and I them, new relationships, new goals and even new challenges in my life. Not to mention me- I mean, who am I these days? You’d think I would’ve been excited after realizing this but this revelation just seemed to make me more anxious.  I began to miss my old relationships, old the places I use to go and things I use to be. No matter how lethal some of it may be to my current growth, my old place still brought me comfort- it’s my familiar place and for a brief moment, I desired to go back.

As I sat at my dining room table overcome with sentiments of pity, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind something my former pastor used to say all the time and recently wrote a book entitled, Don’t Die in Your Wilderness. Then the Holy Spirit gently let me know that I didn’t die in any of my wilderness experiences nonetheless, the concern was making sure I didn’t bring the baggage from there into my “Promised Land”. What did He mean by this? Well, to make things more clearly to me, He brought to my memory a reoccurring, childhood dream I had up until about my teen years:

I was married and had two sons and a daughter (which is what I have now). My family was very successful and we wanted for nothing. However, it was the most annoying dream to keep having. I say this because in the dream, I was hardly able to enjoy anything- I always had dozens of strings tied to my hands and feet and sometimes connected to these strings were garbage-like bags. Throughout the dream I found myself cutting away at these strings so much that I missed other events that happened inside the dream-and they still kept growing back. Even as a child these dreams were very frustrating for me.

However, I loved how all of this came together for me because I had always wondered why I had the same bothersome dream for years! After experiencing this epiphany, the Holy Spirit led me to understand how that dream tied into what I was experiencing that night.

In my dream I was in a promised land- a place that I “crossed over” to by way of overcoming and walking through various trials and tribulations in my life. In my dream I was always in a good place. However, the strings and garbage-like bags represented useless and harmful things that were still attached to me and they kept growing back because I believe, in some way they were a part of me and to be quite honest with you, they were things I may have found comfort in- my familiar place. Yet, they were also things that kept me held back from truly appreciating where I was by keeping me distracted with its entanglements. So what does all of this mean? Let’s start by defining wilderness.

What is a Wilderness Experience?

A wilderness experience is the tough or tumultuous times in a Believer’s life that must be endured but is never meant to be a final destination. Instead, follows a success of some kind-spiritual or natural- your “Promised Land”. There are many biblical examples of people who went through wilderness experiences- Job, Elijah, Jacob, Paul, Jesus and of course The People of Israel. Some endured through their wilderness experiences, some stayed stuck, some overcame and were able to bask in the blessings that succeeded their trials- and sadly some overcame yet brought their baggage with them (Jacob’s wife Rachael in Gen. 31)hence, creating a barrier to their growth.

Dropping the Baggage

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, everyone has seasons of wilderness- a time in your life where you experience some kind of hardship or struggle. Unfortunately, some don’t make it out- but others do!

Today, I’m writing mainly to those who have made it out and overcame a wilderness experience and is now in a good place- you may be experiencing some of the same feelings I was (and still am). You may have crossed over into a good place in your life yet you can’t tell because it’s not your normal yet.  Or maybe you have a hard time accepting it because there is so much baggage (bad attitudes and behaviors, negative thinking, distrust, unforgiveness…etc.) you’re carrying with you from your violent wilderness experiences that you can’t really embrace the new place your in.

Whatever the case may be we must learn how to drop the baggage! I believe we do this by digging out the root. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit is given to us to comfort, lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Therefore, we must allow God’s Spirit to reveal to us the baggage we are carrying around and where does its root lie-we must get down to the heart of the matter-not just so we can grow but so we can also enjoy our growth!

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