The Wilderness & Wet Feet (by Steve)

Two messages I’ve heard over the past week have intrigued me in how these two connect to each other, and especially to our situation.   The first was a teaching at Annual Conference, by Dr. Gil Rendle, a consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation.   Dr. Rendle spoke of there being three stages of change, and used the Exodus story to illustrate these three stages:

Stage 1: Letting Go – Not only letting go, but to stop doing what wasn’t working before, and celebrate what was, but understand (and welcome) that God is doing something new.  There will be grief, and working through this grief process will prepare us for what is next.

Stage 2: Wandering in the Wilderness – He quoted Lord of the Rings “Not all who wander are lost” and said this stage starts after we have begun to let go and is the time of transition between what was and what will be.   It is preparing us for what is next.  Though we might not have known where the change was leading as we entered the wilderness, this process will ready us for it.

Stage 3: Starting New – The New can begin once we have freed ourselves from the power that what was had over us –and– we have spent sufficient time in the Wilderness to really want whatever will be next.  “The trouble is,” Dr Rendle said, “most people and institutions want to skip to stage three, without spending time in the Wilderness, and when it comes, they are not ready for it. You can’t yearn for Egypt and enter Canaan. 


The next message was at Celebration Church was given by Priscilla Shiver out of the Dallas area.  Her text was Joshua 3, on the banks of the Jordan River, as they ready themselves to enter into Canaan. The message was about Joshua’s leadership of the God’s people into Canaan, but for our situation, it meant something completely different.  
Her three points were about leaving the Wilderness were: 

Act Immediately – if God said it, God will equip it.  God has already been at working before you showed up, preparing the situation for what is next.  It does not matter who you are if God is with you, you will succeed.  In an earlier story she quoted Luke 5:11

Act fearlessly in the face of insurmountable odds.  Over 300 times the Bible has some variation of the phrase “fear not”. But when you delay, and look deeply at the root cause of why you have delayed action, is that because you are afraid?  The longer you wait, the more you will see the reality of how bad things could be if God is not with you.  This is not of God but the evil one.  Act now like you believe what God is going to act because the Promised Land can be lost if we fail to make that first step.  She went into a great description of the Jordan River of that time, how the snow-melt was coming and the river was at its height of the season, and until Joshua stepped in the water, he had no evidence that God would stop the flow of water. 

Acknowledge God’s Presence before making a move.  “I’m giving you permission to get your feet wet!” even when you have no evidence that God is going to do what God said He is going to do.  God can see past what you can think and so give God the glory before you take your first step.  Joshua told the people When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, …you are to move out from your positions and follow it.  Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”  When you see God move, acknowledge God, then get your feet wet.  


Ms Shiver then ended with the thought – if you act now, you might just become the one you have been waiting for, that sometimes all it takes is someone to start—and she used the example of Roger Bannister who was the first to break the barrier of the 4 minute mile.  The year after some 30 others did also.  It just took one to show it could be done, and then the people can follow.  So her point was that if you go ahead and act like you believe God is with you, “You just might be the one that you have been waiting for.”

So one message is focused on the Wilderness, the other on how to leave the Wilderness, and both fit our current situation so well.  Clearly, Suzanne and I are in the second stage of Change, the Wilderness, or confusion of the in-between  times, where we are letting go of the institutions that have directed the American Life we have lived.  As we understand what preparing for what our new lives will become,  I find my prayer life changing, and I’m having to pray differently, toward that part of “God can see past what you can think,” and so my prayers don’t feel on target yet, but as I pray though their wilderness I feel some movement on this journey.  Movement feels good, after all, God can’t steer a parked car, and so if I want God to guide our lives, there has to be movement in them.  Wet feet. 

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