The Wilderness is an analogy to what the Israelites wondered for 40-years while awaiting entry into the Promised Land. In my point of view, The Wilderness is defined by defeating toxic cycles, facing deep despair, clearing out bad energy…it’s really a deep, deep reset of the mind, body, and soul. There is no escape. In fact, the only out is to go through it. For some, this period of life is self-imposed and for other’s it’s the only recourse The Universe has to assist in one’s spiritual awakening. There is confusion, brain fog, anxiety, and more. The journey is very challenging, but rewarding along the way. I cannot say I am completely out yet, but I know I have learned some very valuable lessons as I traverse through this desert filled with mirages, hope, and strength. These are six lessons I have learned so far in The Wilderness:
- Honor my humanity.
When we experience intense emotions, we are expected to make our expressions palatable for those around us. Let’s face it! It is not easy to watch someone you love go through so much and for some, for so long. In our attempt to sooth pain, and even make sense of it, we deny the person who is suffering their humanity. They are not allowed to grieve on their own terms. There is an unspoken expectation that the healing must happen on the terms of society, the family, or the friend circle. I experienced a devastating trauma at the age of 2 and a half. Unfortunately, for over 30 years I was never allowed to process that grief, heal, or even accept the event on my own terms. I was forced to swallow that pill and eat me alive while mitigating the traumas I would experience throughout my childhood. My humanity was denied and would be denied time and time again in the name of considering the feelings of others.
December 2020 would unlock that stuffed drain pipe of emotional build-up, and I unleashed it all. I broke every rule in the Christian, New Age, and societal rule book that existed. If life coaches and pastors really saw me express my rage to God, I would have been drowned in a baptistry faster than Lazarus rising from the dead. The blessing was that I learned that God’s or the Universe’s (however you want to identify it as) capacity for handling our emotions and humanity is far greater than any human on Earth, including mine. It was expressing my raw emotions, positive and extremely negative, to God that I realized that much of what I learned in the Evangelical churches was simply not true. In fact, much of what pastors were telling me during this time were furthering dehumanizing my experience and degrading me. The more they did this, the more I honored and valued my own humanity.
- It is safe for me to walk away from Evangelical Christianity and I can still keep my relationship with God.
**This is not an invitation to persecute or target Evangelical Christians. I do not blame the majority, but I do hold the leadership responsible for misleading through the exploitation of their positions. In fact, this Wilderness season exposed many of the false claims propagated by religious leaders. I was so sick of being shamed, fear mongered, and misunderstood by prayer line warriors and pastoral counselors that I had to distance myself from Evangelical Christianity. This required immense faith in God. I had to trust my family and I would not be struck down if I walked away from this. Now, did I walk away from God? No! In fact, I grew closer in my relationship because the cultural BS was cleaned out and I could finally see what needed to be seen. I learned that worship and gratitude is not defined by how well you can perform and cry in front of large crowds eclipsed by a pulpit. I learned that these things are often the simple acknowledgements we quietly make in our hearts and for God…yes, that is sufficient.
- I decide what my limitations are and I am not at the mercy of those who are not struggling as much as I am.
Sometimes, when one friend is struggling and the other is not. The one who is not struggling takes on the attitude of being the “enlightened one.” This creates an unhealthy power dynamic because the person going through the Wilderness begins to feels as if they are not allowed to speak up for themselves. Just because you are healing and struggling that does not mean you are less. This is your healing, you know what you need, and you are allowed to advocate for yourself during this time. Remember, the title, “life coach,” “pastor”, “priest,” “spiritual coach,” etc. are just that…titles. They are human beings who are working very hard to overcome their own legacies of pain just like the rest of us. However, their title and perhaps the season of downtime from struggles they are experiencing does not give them the right to abuse their position and decide what you need. You decide your limitations and what you are capable of.
- Appreciate the efforts I can give fully!
I had a pathological need for acknowledgement from others. It was bad and regretfully, important relationships of mine were ruined because of this. I had days where the most I could do was get out of bed, shower, get my daughter on and off the bus, and fix breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I learned how to be okay with being able to do the bare minimum and allowing it to be enough. Once I started learning how to fully appreciate what little and how much I could do, that pathological need for acceptance, acknowledgement, and appreciation began to vaporize and relationships improved greatly.
- I can move on without having all of the answers.
This was the hardest lesson of all. I grew up always being left out of the loop. It was a terrible game of control, and too often my trust was taken advantage of because people knew I would wait as long as I needed to for those answers. And boy! Can I hold out! The last break in my life sent me on a savage quest for answers. It was a fruitless quest, no doubt. In the end, I learned that even if we got all of the answers our hearts desired, it may actually be a stumbling block to moving forward. Knowing me, if I got those answers, I would slip back into a world of denial and I would really remain stuck in the past. Perhaps being left in the dark is a blessing in disguise because we have nothing to obsess over and we are freer to move on. The best thing I could do for myself is to tie up my laces, pack my suitcase, and just keep moving forward trusting that if God knows I can handle the truth of many situations in my life, he will bring me those answers in due time. Now, my prayer is: Lord, give me the answers only if it will aid in the forgiveness and healing of others and myself. If not, then I am better off not knowing.
- No one’s opinion, not a bad past, no one’s negative projections, or even expert opinions about me are allowed nor do they get to hold my future hostage.
This ties into Lessons 1 and 3. Sometimes we feel like we need permission from those who have helped us that we are ready to move on, or take steps to build a future. How many of us were told, “If you don’t become an amazing person, you will never find the love of your life.” Or “If you are not so immersed in your calling and completely dependent upon God, you will never bring you your person.” My favorite, “Because you struggled for the first two years of your life [reference to the ACE studies] you will struggle for the rest of your life.” For longer than I care to admit, I allowed all of these messages to hold my future and myself hostage. I believed every word of it.
Then I took an honest look around. There is a war happening in Ukraine, and there are hundreds of people living their lives despite the imminent dangers that lurk every day. There is abject poverty in India, but that does not stop people from experiencing the simple joys of life. I live in drought-ridden Texas and I watch life thrive even though we have not seen rain in over 100 days. And here I am, allowing my circumstances, the actions of others, and even experts hold me hostage! No more. Yes, the ACE studies are valid, but they do not determine my future. Yes, you do need to make sure you are developed enough so you are not settling for anything that you find on the street or you are strong enough to leave a situation that is not healthy for you. But these are decisions you are allowed to make for yourself. You know what you need and want. Trust in that.
Regardless of what is happening in your life…and no matter how badly your heart is bleeding, you are allowed to live, love, and rejoice. No one but you are allowed to decide what you want, need, or when you are ready to move on towards your future, but you.