I am so thankful that fellow Redbud, Margaret Philbrick, is sharing her wilderness experience today. This is such a pleasant remind that God does set a table for us in the wilderness, he does hear when we cry to him for help, and he will answer in his perfect time:
“Can God set a table in the wilderness?” Psalm 78:19
10 years, that’s how long my wilderness experience has been. Not really that long when compared to 40 years of Israelites wandering in the wilderness. But when you’re in your 40’s and ten years is one quarter of your lifetime, it seems like a long time to be wandering in the wilderness, looking for a home.
Our church, Church of the Resurrection, lost our building when we left the Episcopal Church in 1993. We met in schools, gyms, even tents. We became fluid, agile, and adaptable to a freedom in the Holy Spirit which can come when we release ourselves from the tangible things of the earth. Our fellowship grew. People liked meeting in a school with our money going to ministry and not into a building. But a few of us longed for a home… so we started driving the suburbs, scouring for empty warehouses or affordable vacant land. After years of looking, we found the perfect spot, a 22 acre parcel in the midst of a picturesque neighborhood with a large pond, giant trees and an open, flat area to build our church upon. I was given the task of leading this effort which in the beginning seemed like a “no-brainer.” Who would not want a beautiful new church in the middle of their well thought out cul-de-sacs and country roads?
After eighteen months of planning, thousands of dollars of exploration and endless hours of prayer, the County Board voted against our project. The neighbors didn’t want it and they fought us with a vehemence befitting a mother Saber Tooth Tiger protecting her cubs, even to the point of spitting upon and swearing at members of our church in public hearings. The end result of our hopeful journey was one of disappointment and pain. Something I believed was God’s will for our faithful, loving community vanished with a 30 second vote. I will never forget the few moments before the vote, as we all sat there holding our breaths, and one of our pastors turned to me and said, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
We thought about suing the County and held a tearful meeting in our home, calling upon many church leaders to share what we should do next. A wise woman shared Luke 8:52 in which Jesus responds to the death of Jairus’ daughter, “She’s not dead, only sleeping.” We didn’t file a lawsuit and I clung to this verse in the coming years of waiting on God for the next step.
God sets a table in the wilderness by the giving of his Word through his faithful people. As we seek him for His way with our lives, we pray and wait. In the waiting He comes. Sometimes, with dreams and visions, but so often he comes with the still, small voice of his Word. How many times have you heard just the right verse given to you for a particular challenge you are facing and you say to yourself, “That just can’t be a coincidence?” It isn’t. The important step of obedience is our listening and looking for it.
The wise woman was right. Our church building project was asleep for a time, but the Lord, as only he can do, awakened us to a building that is so much better than the piece of land we thought was “perfect.” Last night we rode our bikes over to look at it under construction. Pressing our sweaty faces against the glass we saw, steel beams being put in place and staircases ascending. We hope to move in by the end of this year and we will be inviting people from the neighborhood, who cast us out.
Psalm 23:5 “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”