336Hr Solo.

I got a letter a couple months ago from a dear friend who is currently going to a small Bible college out in the boonies of Montana. He had written the letter the day after he returned from a 48hr period of solitude in the wilderness, spent in fasting, prayer, Bible reading and simply being in the presence of God. Back in November when I was reading it, his words struck me as odd. “..It did not go as I had pictured. Not even close. I pictured a very peaceful and pleasant time with my Father but it turned out to be a very revealing, testing and breaking time before a Holy God with nowhere to run.. (the days) ended with me sick with myself and pleading with the Lord.” The word “breaking” especially caught my attention. You are in the middle of one of the most glorious mountain ranges a person can find themselves in, surrounded by the presence of God Almighty and He chooses to break you? Not inspire, not refresh, not comfort, but break?

It wasn’t long before I learned exactly the weight of meaning held within those words. The past month, my roommates left for their home countries and I found myself in a place of solitude. Granted, two weeks were spent on vacation with a wonderful Brazilian missionary family who work alongside me here in Madagascar through AIM, but the other two weeks I spent very little time outside of my house. Other than assisting my Short Term Coordinator, I had the mornings and evenings to myself. At the start of the two weeks I found myself filling my time; a little facebook here and there, a few skypes with friends, some reading, cooking sessions with music blaring through the halls of my empty house. But I grew tired. I was tired of seeing life back home confined to my computer screen. I was tired of cooking meals only to eat them by myself. My ears grew tired of the music and the noise.
I must say – the practice of true solitude is one of the healthiest practices a person can commit themselves to. When you take a little time to slow down and tune out the noise, and you aren’t so concerned in updating a status or searching desperately for yet another way to be entertained or fulfill this or that person’s obligations, a space is emptied. A space for the often quiet, whispers of God.
I went on a 336hr solo with Him and He broke me.
He drew me into His presence and it was there in the safety of His throne room that He proceeded to shine light on the dark, dusty corners of my heart. I wasnt just rushing in to say a quick prayer, or try to “feel” Him in a routine Bible reading. I was reveling in His presence. That’s when  He did it – one by one He unveiled crippling fears, boldfaced lies, dissatisfying lusts. As He showed me more of my own heart and more of the idols that I had traded Him in for, I felt my heart break. He addressed the sins He had uncovered. To the fears He said, “Hand them over. Be embraced in My perfect love which casts them out.” To the lies He said,” You know the source of Truth. My Son. Know Him. Be set free.” To the lust He said, ” I am far more satisfying. Haven’t you tasted of My goodness? Don’t stay away.”
Oh I praise God for His graciousness. He takes us to the point of breaking us, but He never leaves us broken for long, just long enough to come to the end of ourselves.

“…ponder in your own hearts on your beds and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.” Ps. 4:4b-5

” There are vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us, but it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone. Are we alone with Him now? Or are we more concerned with our own ideas, friendships and cares for our bodies?” -Oswald Chambers

“… He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself.” Matt. 14:13a

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Embarking.

I am having a hard time grasping the truth of what is currently transpiring in my life at this point in time. In less than twenty-four hours I will board a plane bound for Chicago. Chicago is not my final destination. Not even close. I am headed to the African island of Madagascar. For nine months, I will take on a volunteer position teaching English in a local school and nearby seminary. I will be living on the top floor of an AIM (Africa Inland Mission) apartment on the outskirts of town. I will be receiving training upon arrival and given more information about the assignment that has been extended to me. I know that I’ll probably eat quite a bit of rice.. and wear skirts. Other than that, I am aware of little else.

My heart has wrestled this past summer. Wrestled with the fear of the unknown and the foreign, with feelings of inadequacy (which are abounding, given the fact that I am a mere 19 years of age with no degree of any kind). I have secretly struggled with doubts about God’s ability to provide $12,114 in about 5 months time. (We all say we trust Him, but when the rubber hits the road, when the time seems to run out, are we actually settled? Do we feel safe resting secure in His hands or does panic quietly seize our hearts?) In all honesty, loneliness is rumored to be an insurmountable struggle at times when people go on trips like these. They say month 6 is when it really hits, or maybe during big holidays like Christmas. You’re likely to get sick, spend a little time in the bathroom, that sorta thing. Oh, and did you know that Ebola is sweeping across Africa? I have heard all of other people’s concerns on my behalf and had waves of my own fear grip my heart and cause panic to rise and regret to surface before I have even left the country.

Emotions are deeply strung within the framework of man. It is hardwired into our nature. Most of us are utterly dependent on them! They urge us here or there, string us along in this direction or that, and can work us into an absolute frenzy. It’s quite ridiculous. Most often our emotions have no substance of reality behind them. No truth is contained in them. My feelings would’ve long ago told me to get the heck out! Do something reasonable. Go to school. Get that degree. Get married. But praise God! He is far beyond the sensible or reasonable. Oh, how He has shown me that He is beyond being confined. He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20a).” The truth of who God is has been further confirmed in my heart during this whole process. He has met me. I am $2000 above my target amount and climbing. I have been brought to tears by the generosity of family and friends who have given without hesitation. I have felt the depth of His love through them. I have been upheld in prayers prayed on my behalf that He has faithfully answered. He sorted out little details with ease, settled my heart on the daily, and realigned my feelings time and time again with the truth. He has met me and will continue to meet me. For that is who He is.