Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The spiritual wilderness - continued

Looking back over the last eleven and a half years of my life and everything that happened during that time period, I am rather amazed that I'm still alive. I've spent that entire time in the spiritual wilderness - the most intense period of that wilderness was the 40 months I spent in Taupo. I've come out of it now, and I do feel like a new man. However, I've also been quite bitter and perplexed about the fact that despite now being a published author on the world stage, I have very little to show for it. I sometimes feel incredibly low on confidence and I have little trust in my own decision making. I am rapidly approaching 30 years old now. I see many people my own age (or younger) who are married, have children and their own house. Though I now have an amazing girlfriend, I certainly do not have children or my own house - not to mention no finances to be able to fund those things.

This has been a deep source of grief and disappointment for me and has often caused me to feel like a complete failure as a man. I am actually very good with my money - I don't go spending it wildly on stupid, unnecessary things. My computer is probably the most expensive thing I own (which I need for writing). My car isn't overly flash and I don't have a huge amount of worldly possessions. I've also gone through long periods of putting money aside into savings accounts, yet at nearly 30 I have almost nothing to show for it. A conversation with my girlfriend this evening helped shed some light on this for me and helped further my understanding of the nature of the spiritual wilderness, and how the wilderness affects us.

You don't get your own way in the wilderness.
If there was one thing that was stamped out of me early on in the wilderness - it was my ability to make my own decisions and see them work out in my favor. After I dropped out of University at the end of 2002, I began to look for a full-time IT job using the papers I had gained from Massey University. I knew this was what I wanted to do, so I went out of my way to make it happen. One day at church, God told my mother that He wanted me to go to bible college. I didn't want to know - because I wanted a job doing stuff with computers. So I set out to apply to make one of these jobs happen. It didn't.

It didn't matter if I knew someone in the company, how well my CV looked, how well I conducted myself in interviews or anything like that. It was literally impossible for me to get a job. I could be first on the shortlist to get a job and somehow I still wouldn't get it. I thought that this was just because I hadn't found the right job yet. So, I kept trying. Nothing happened. After about ten months being at home unemployed, I was just about ready to completely lose the plot. God gave my mother a vision of a brick wall - one which I was banging my head against. Mum eventually prayed to God and said "If you really want Graham to go to bible college, he needs a job to save up to earn money for his course fees." A day later, a friend who worked at a local supermarket said that they had a job going filling shelves for 40 hours a week. Being beyond the point of desperation by this time, I was ready to take anything. So I went along for the interview and got the job. God got his way - I certainly didn't get mine.

There's no abundance in the wilderness - you get what you need for the immediate future, and that's all.
I always remember one of the bible stories I used to read when I was a kid. It was about the Israelites when they were in the desert for 40 years. God rained down bread from heaven to feed His people who were walking through the desert. The people were instructed to gather enough for each day - and that was it. One family decided to disobey this rule and gathered enough of this bread from heaven (called Manna) for the following day as well. They went to check it the following day and found that it had all gone bad, and needed to be thrown out. They were unable to store anything for the future - they only ever had enough for what was immediately in front of them.

I am Scottish by nature, so that means that I don't like spending money. When I do spend money, I spend it on well thought out purchases. I believe in the theory of buy once, buy well. Until this evening I have been very bitter about the fact that despite my Scottish heritage, I am nearly 30 and almost completely broke. Looking back on the past eleven and a half years, it's literally been like I've had holes in my pockets. The second I came into any money or began to save - it just always seemed to disappear. I did have one period where I had a motorcycle accident which cost me a lot of money - but not long after that thanks to some amazing financial blessings and cutting back on spending I found myself back in a position of financial prosperity. However, shortly afterwards it was infuriatingly gone again.

At the supermarket job I mentioned previously, during the space of 11 months or so I managed to save up over $10,000.00. A good achievement, I thought. After getting the job, I gave up the idea of going to bible college and thought that I'd stick with that job and go and get a flat. It wasn't meant to be. Nothing worked out, until I finally gave in and decided to go to bible college after all. My course fees? $10,000.00 which included my living costs. All that hard work to save was gone. Then, after a year of bible college which had reduced my funds to zero and a failed job that I attempted to make work for 6 months, I get called by God to go back to bible college - again. And spend another $10,000.00. I'd gone from being quite wealthy for a young man to being ten grand in debt - simply for obeying God.

This trend was to continue. If ever I had money from this point on, it just seemed to disappear. In early 2009 when I was living in Taupo, I felt God strongly impress upon my heart that I needed to really focus on saving money. So I did. For the next two years I saved all that I could and kept my expenses to a minimum. I wasn't sure why I felt to save, but I did anyway - diligently. Then in August 2011, burnout hit and I was out of work for nearly a year before moving back to Tauranga. The funds I had saved helped keep me afloat during this time. I didn't spend all of my savings throughout this time however, and began to build them up once I got back to Tauranga  and began working again halfway through 2012. Just as I finally began to make some headway and get to a better place - God opens the door for me to publish my book, which would cost me. Once again - all of my savings were gone.

I wanted to save for the future, but seeing as I was in the wilderness, I was only ever given enough financially to help me cope with what I was immediately facing. The few times I was able to save a bit of money - it was only because it was going to be completely used up later on. It was literally impossible for me to get ahead financially because of the season that I was in. My money wasn't meant to last, it wasn't meant to be a sense of security and it wasn't meant to help prepare for my long term future - it was simply used to fund the purposes God wanted it for in the wilderness.

There's one path in the wilderness - and that's Gods.
When the Israelites walked in the desert, they followed a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. This was the presence of God, which directed them exactly where to go and where to stay, as well as how long to stay there for. To go off on their own direction was to disobey God - and therefore risk death. The presence of God was tangible and there to instruct them that they were to follow no other path than the path God had for them.

My life had often felt similar. It often felt like I was walking a narrow, claustrophobic path between two cliff faces - with a solid wall of rock and dirt on each side of me. I could only walk the path that was laid ahead of me. I simply could not turn to the right or to the left because I'd just hit a wall. My experiences with the job situation back in Wellington reinforced this.

People got angry with me at times during periods like this of inactivity in my life and came up with all kinds of suggestions. "Why don't you move to another city and get a job there?" "Why don't you try this or try that?" No one really seemed to believe me when I said that I couldn't make anything happen. It wasn't for lack of trying to get a job. It just couldn't happen and it wasn't going to happen because it wasn't on the path God had laid out for me. I couldn't go out and make things happen for myself. If I tried opening any doors, they'd simply slam shut on me and refuse to open again. I began to realize that there was only one way that I could go, and that was on the exact path that God had set ahead of me - because nowhere else would even come close to working. So I began to learn to change my focus from trying to make what I wanted happen, to making sure I was hearing from God and obeying His will.

It takes time to adjust to life outside of the wilderness.
The wilderness is not a place of living, but barely surviving. You get used to not getting your own way regarding anything and you become a drifter, a lost soul, with no plan or future ahead of you except walking wherever the pillar of cloud decides to go next. You know that you've got no choice but to obey.

One of the most challenging things I am facing right now is the reality that the wilderness has finished its purpose in my life. I am now beginning to walk in the season of resurrection - into the promised land. And, quite frankly, it's quite intimidating. I understand to some degree how hard it must be for those involved in the military who fight in battles and spend all day and night just hoping to stay alive, to re-enter society. All of a sudden they don't know how to cope. War is all they know, and it's scary to imagine not being at war. I've been locked in a battle for my heart and soul in the spiritual wilderness for a long time now. There's been many casualties. But I've emerged victorious. However, the concept of facing life outside of the spiritual war zone is quite intimidating. I'm not used to having my own free will. I'm used to following the orders of my Sargent (this being God of course). I'm not used to being able to do anything except the strict orders given to me. It's new, and a bit scary. But I've made progress already. The more good things I continue to see happen, the quicker I will adjust and the easier it will be.

So, if you find yourself in the wilderness today, I sincerely hope this encourages you and helps to shed some light on what you may be facing within your own circumstances.

Take care.


7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post Graham this has helped me make some sense of things in my own life

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    1. No worries at all my friend. Glad it spoke to you.

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  2. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect! I really like your blog!!

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  3. I recently started reading your book and it has brought some light to me. I can relate to you in some ways, in other ways I still feel alone. But any sign of hope is welcome. I appreciate your writings as they have brought encouragement to me. God bless you!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback, I'm glad my book has brought some light to you. God bless you too!

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