I am a firm believer that life is made up of seasons.
Being from Texas, I also understand that seasons are unpredictable. They can be fleeting or last for what seems like an eternity. In central Texas, we try to just stick to two seasons: fry an egg on the sidewalk hot to gonna die of frostbite cold. Either way, it’s rough when you go outside.
There are days, sometimes weeks, where the weather changes and it’s perfect outside. You can hike, sit outside and read, do yard work, drive with all the windows down and not worry about sweating to death or loosing an appendage to frost. These are days where you feel guilty if you don’t take advantage of the perfect weather.
Now, I have been at fault on several occasions of thinking that I know it all. Let the record show that I, in no way or on any planet in the universe, actually think I know it all. So this blog and so many of my other blogs are just 30 years of collective experiences. This story is no different.
Recently I was talking to my dad about why important things in my life seem to never come easy. I battled crippling depression and anxiety and almost failed out of college, I was married young and then divorced a year later. I have dug deep holes financially and personally that I have had to scrape and crawl my way out of. But, I have gotten out, eventually, and never the way I planned to or set out to accomplish my goals. But, I graduated with pretty good grades. I fell in love and married an amazing man. I have awesome relationships with incredible people who make my life feel whole and full.
I told my dad that I started as a big hunk of iron that will eventually be a sword, but you can’t get a sword from iron unless you stick it in the fire and bang it around a bunch.
Currently, I am in a season of being put in the fire, taken out, banged around, and put back in the flames. I call these times in my life the wilderness, Being in the wilderness is a period of time when nothing seems like the right or wrong way to go forward but everything is confusing and challenging. In the wilderness, it’s impossible to tell which way to go, what choice to make, or who to lean on. You just have to go with your gut, use God as your compass and map (I know, I threw up in my mouth too when I wrote that, but the cliche works here), and keep moving forward one step at a time.
In the documentary film “The Princess Bride,” Westley and Buttercup go through a wilderness called “The Fire Swamp” (cue dramatic music). Immediately before they are driven into the Fire Swamp by their enemies, they rekindle their love and passion for one another. They find hope and joy in one another and then, after years of separation and sadness, they are immediately forced into yet another trial by, well, fire.
Buttercup is kinda the worst character in the world. Cary Elwes carries her (and that whole movie) and the scene in the Fire Swamp is no exception. Westley doesn’t know where he’s going or what is going to spring up in front of him, but he navigates Buttercup through the wilderness, saves her life several times, and LEARNS AS HE GOES.
When Westley saves Buttercup (again) from the quicksand, we see them triumphantly raise up from the ground, gasping and panting for breath. Buttercup, the dullest pessimist in the world says, “We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here” to which Westley responds “No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the fire swamp? One, the flame spurt. No problem. There’s a popping sound preceding each, we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, but you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.”
HE IS LEARNING AS HE GOES ALONG.
Then Buttercup asks Westley about the R.O.U.S’s, to which he replies “Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist” and is immediately attacked by a dwarf in a rat costume. But he learns. He grows. He accepts his current condition and is constantly finding ways to overcome and stay optimistic. At last they get out of the Fire Swamp, and meet more danger and suffering, but it all works out in the end.
Eventually we all come out of the wilderness on the other side. Do you always end up at the destination you set out to? In my experience, no, not once. But I have always come out of the wilderness as a more complete person. Winter actually always turns into Spring. Even if Spring lasts for two days, it is still warmer.
You can chose to learn from our times in the wilderness and be formed into a better person, or you can deny that it ever happened.
Jesus was set out into the wilderness by the spirit. During the 40 days (Bible for “a really, really long time”) I know Jesus must have felt scared, lost, and unsure of what was to come. But, Jesus also knew that God would carry him through to the end in order to accomplish great and wonderful things. When he left the wilderness, he pushed forward and saved the world.
When you are in a time of wandering and facing the unknown, remember the times when God has brought you out of the darkness and through the trees and hold fast on those memories, knowing that God will once again deliver you from pain and confusion. Although we cannot see the whole picture, God is guiding us. Just keep your eyes forward, your head up, and keep stepping out in faith. I think Westley says it best when he tells Buttercup “Well, one thing I will say. The fire swamp certainly does keep you on your toes. This will all soon be but a happy memory.”
Happy Sabbath! Peace.
God, sometimes it’s so hard to see past all the noise and confusion and to know your true voice. Help me to hear you more clearly, to understand your will for my life, and to keep moving in your direction when I am in the wilderness. I need your guidance and your support. Please show me your way. Light up my path so that I do not stumble or wander. Amen.
*The movie “The Princess Bride” is not a documentary, but it is incredible and you need to watch it right now. Even if you have seen it, watch it again. Now.