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!