Sojourn. I liked the way the word rolled off my tongue even though I struggled to arrange the consonants the first time I stumbled across the word as a child. I was a little girl reading about a man named Abraham braving the unfamiliar with nothing but a promise from God. He was following Yahweh across a wide desert and foreign land, brushing the shores of the Mediterranean, among an unfamiliar people as he learned to become familiar with God’s voice.
I believe it was in the wandering that God disclosed His faithfulness and demonstrated His goodness. And in some miraculous and crazy way, a perfectly holy, beautiful, and righteous God called him friend. Even though Abraham sojourned among people who were not his own, he chose to draw his security from God. He made the presence of God his home and was never aimless because of it. People around him sought to build wealth, but Abraham chose to build a relationship.
Could Abraham have known he would father a generation who would give birth to a people that would wander around the same desert towards a promised land?
The Israelites became sojourners too. And it wasn’t because God intended to withhold from them, but because he intended to give Himself to them. And He knew they had to first find rest in Him before they could find peace in the land he would lead them in to. As I flip through the pages of the Old and New Testament, it is so clear to me -- He really does want our full attention because ultimately he wants our whole hearts. He’s willing to lead us into the wilderness if it means we meet Him there. I know because I’ve been there and I’m willing to bet you have (or will) too — the wilderness, walking around in the waiting begging God for answers when he just says “Trust. Trust in who I am more than what I’m doing.” My mind leaps back to the pages of Hosea when God says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.”
The wilderness?! God if you’re so good, why do I feel so afraid? But the words in Hosea are so gentle -- and I’m reminded it’s because of His extravagant love He draws me to those places. Today, I am so convinced that the wilderness is the place God shows His kindness -- because we become so desperate for Him there. We have no choice but to lean. I don’t believe it’s the place God intends for us to build a home, but the place He intends to bring us through so we can have more of Him, and there’s a sweetness there when he meets us. We experience real dependency. Fear sometimes rises up in me as I protest “I want stability.” But what I am really saying (like the Israelites) is “I want control!!!!” God has always wanted to be the one sustaining me. He doesn’t want me turning other places for it, and sometimes it’s the tenderest, truest mercy to draw me away, so He might reveal to me who He is. Perhaps it’s part of His jealousy too and what he meant when he told the prophets that he was like a jealous husband. He has always wanted to be our portion and fulfill the desire to be the place we belong before he gives us the territory he desires us to inhabit.
“I want to be your reward. I want to be your satisfaction. I want to be your portion whether you taste of my promise in your life or it is fulfilled for those who follow you,” I can almost hear Him saying it as the words come crashing into my heart.
And maybe God knew the Israelites (and me) just weren’t ready to taste the promise when he had them circle the wilderness.. not yet. They had more to discover about the God who gave them a place in His kingdom and His heart in the before they could receive their inheritance. There is abundance in the wilderness as much as there is abundance in the promise when our reward becomes an abundant God and not the things we want Him to give us. God wanted to know in those places whether they could they give their hearts and minds back to him. That was what he required and requires still.
“Will you make your home my presence?” He seemed to say as they traversed a dusty wilderness forty years. “Can I be enough of an anchor for you now in the wait as I can be in its fulfillment? Will you trust me before you see the goodness? Will you trust my character more than your circumstance — more than your own understanding? Trust that you will not be alone. Will you dare to believe that I truly am that much better than anything you could imagine?”
The wandering can seem long and hard if you don’t know it’s purpose. Egypt was familiar.. even though it was bondage. And sometimes the place of bondage is hard to leave. We need a new perspective. Otherwise, the journey can feel long if you don’t know that the promise land lies ahead of you. Your heart will be weary when it bears the weight of a thousand questions God perhaps asks us to just let go of. Your soul will feel afraid if you lose sight of the God leading the way. When the Israelites finally left Egypt, they didn’t have a compass, but they had an all-knowing, extravagantly loving, zealous, and sovereign God to light their way. He was guiding them -- even when it felt tough. And whispering with every step, “I am enough.”
~ Meet Sara Bachtel ~
Sara has loved writing for as long as she can remember. As a child, she was a late bloomer when it came to reading and arranging letters into words made sense on the page in front of her, but when it finally clicked for her, a new world opened. It’s been a hobby, lifeline, form of prayer, and means of connection through every crazy, beautiful, and uncertain season of life. In 2016, Sara graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Human Development and Family Science. Since then she has spent two years in ministry at the UGA Wesley Foundation. She is now thrilled to be moving toward another passion this fall - teaching.