By B. Williams
Four years ago. In a quiet room, there sits a glossy, stained wooden dining room table. The room is well-lit and inviting. There’s two chairs facing each other. In one chair, sits Jesus.
He sits there awaiting me. Excitingly awaiting me to come, to know him and him to know me. He’s ready to overwhelm me with His character and communion.
I enter the room.
I somewhat eagerly walk towards the table. I am anxious to get to Him, but I have brought a lot with me. Overflowing out of my hands are the piles of garbage I have brought in. It smells. It’s gross to look at. It’s distracting.
I sit at the table and spread out the garbage before Him.
At these communions, I haven’t brought this garbage to surrender at His feet. I’ve brought it in to lay out in front of me. I’m distracted by it. It’s in front of me and has my attention more than He does. In fact, at most of these dinners, I have piled up the trash so high, I can’t even fix my eyes on Him.
“This stuff isn’t really bad stuff. It can be turned back into good if I decorate it a little,” I tell myself. “I don’t want Him to have it, I know He will throw it away. I want to keep it, because my life won’t look the same without it.”
I don’t enjoy dinner or our conversation, the little that we had, and I blame Him for it.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him…” Philippians 3:7-9
4 years ago, I hadn’t considered anything in my life as garbage compared to knowing Christ. I wasn’t ready or even willing to lose any of it for the sake of gaining fellowship with Him.
I was at a great university, I had great friends, and I was engaged to who I thought was the love of my life. No way were those things garbage and in no way was I giving up any of it to know Him more.
So He stripped me away from it Himself.
That summer, the guy I was engaged to called off the wedding. My world changed in the most drastic way it ever has. I depended on him for everything. He took care of me. My worth was all contingent on his thoughts of me. Everything, absolutely everything, in my life revolved around him and our future.
When you’re engaged, you expect that to be it for you. He’s your future, you’ve finally found the one that your soul loves. You’re basically married, right? You can depend on that to be a constant in your life now. And it’s okay to have all of your hopes in dreams in him now, right?
I remember sitting in Redeemer Christian Church one morning and the pastor telling me, for the first time ever, that idolatry doesn’t have to be a gold calf. It can be anything or anyone. In fact, it can be good things. It’s anything we hold to a higher regard in our hearts than Jesus.
I came back to WT that semester, and I didn’t know a soul on that campus. I went to a lot of events alone that year. I was desperate for community that I was never finding. I tried every group on campus possible. I was everyone’s acquaintance and no one’s friend. I had never been in this place before.
You could call it desert. Because that’s sure what it felt like. One verse that forever will describe that time for me is this:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (valley of trouble) a door of Hope.” Hosea 2:14-15
Notice this verse says, I will allure her, or I will lead her into the desert. No one will take themselves to the desert. The desert is scary, lonely, and without any of our comforts. Yet there is a comfort, in fact it’s the Great Comforter, the one that never leaves nor forsakes.
He had to take me to the desert and had to strip me of my idols because unfortunately that is the only place I would listen to Him. Tenderly, he speaks to her. Who’s the “her”, you might ask? It’s the prostitute, Gomer, who has been selling herself to idolatry for years. Just like yours truly.
But notice He doesn’t yell at her when He gets her to the desert. She’s been stripped of all of her distractions and when that still small voice begins to speak, her heart is hushed and she is ushered into the fullness of His presence.
It’s in the desert where He will make valleys of trouble become doors of hope.
Throughout that year of being in a desert, it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the hardest year I had ever been through. But as I craved consistency in my life that continually had one big change after another, I found it in Christ. It was during that time that I found the sweetest fellowships with Him.
Yet there is a comfort, in fact it’s the Great Comforter, the one that never leaves nor forsakes.
During my time of tribulation, I begged several times for the Lord to show me why it was happening. But if He had shown me how it would all eventually come together, I would’ve laughed or ran away in fear.
That time eventually brought me to traveling to different countries to proclaim the gospel, it took me to sweet friendships that love me more fully than I ever could’ve imagined, it led me to change my major, it’s taken me to full time ministry, and it has made me into a new creation.
Has my life been butterflies and roses since? HA! Do I still bring my distracting garbage to the table? Yes. Do I still grieve that missed opportunity (as my roommate so beautifully words it)? Of course.
But every time I’m in the middle of a meeting with a girl I mentor and I get to watch her fall more in love with Jesus, or I labor with my staff into a trip or project that finally comes together and the gospel is able to go forth, I’m reminded of that goodness He has made out of that desert.
Forever the way I keep fellowship with Him has been changed. The deserts aren’t as hard anymore because I have the promise that year gave me- that He is enough. I lost everything that year, but I GAINED HIM.
I know him more deeply, and I have experienced His sweetness in a time of loneliness and suffering. He was my friend when I had no friends, He has loved me when I was the most vulnerable, and I know what it’s like to have Him speak tenderly to me.
I consider all things rubbish compared to gaining more of Him.
Wherever He’s at, desert or not, that’s where I want to be