By Laurel Thomas
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
Murky brown sky raced toward me as I drove home from the grocery store. All afternoon winds had blown a stifling mix of sand and silt. It was my first dust storm, complete with grit in my teeth and a queasy belly. I hoped my husband hated his new job in the desert city because I hated living here.
He loved it.
I’d measured my losses long before the official move. Twenty-year friends were left behind. Our older children were separated from us by 10 hours. Trees, grass, and flowers, once plentiful, grew only by sprinklers’ daily drenching. Just over the retaining wall, the desert mocked. In civilization’s best efforts, it wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was I.
Depression came to visit, then stayed. Like Noah’s dove, I circled, looking for a place to belong in this new land. My husband did his best to ease our transition. But in my heart, I was sure he’d missed. This move had nothing to do with God’s will.
Or did it?
Joseph, in the book of Genesis, started out with two prophetic dreams. Although details were sketchy, it was clear God had called him to lead. And that even his family would acknowledge his leadership. But like approaching storm clouds overtaking morning sunshine, his brothers mumbled jealous complaints at the first mention of his dreams. Things got complicated fast. In fact, those sweet dreams of divine promise landed him in an Egyptian dungeon, far from home and family. Not the plan he had in mind.
My sweet dream had taken a nosedive too.
We’d helped pioneer a new church in our hometown, working hard alongside friends and family. When I woke up in the morning, I felt purpose in the day ahead. I loved our church and all the bigness of God in it. If anyone asked me where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, I’d answer that I was right where I wanted to be, doing just what I wanted to do. I was a woman with a dream, sure of what it meant. I’d be there, in that church, walking out his plan in my God-given calling.
Then the company my husband worked for made a major shift. His job moved us away from our longtime home. Although I wasn’t dragged away in chains, I felt the heat of my skid marks from Oklahoma to west Texas. Our new home wasn’t a prison, but that didn’t help my confusion. Like Joseph, who’d glimpsed his destiny as a young man, I’d been certain of God’s calling. This move was piece of a life-sized puzzle I couldn’t figure out.
A scorpion skittered across the living room carpet early one morning. Smashing it with my Nike-clad heel, I ground it into powder. Vermin had risen up in me too. Fear and anger blasted through the surface of my otherwise calm exterior. This part of my journey wasn’t one I’d chosen. It didn’t shine with lots of cozy affirmations and pats on the back. It didn’t look like anything special. It was a wilderness season smack dab in the wilderness itself.
Joseph knew about desert seasons. For him, captivity was an unlikely vehicle driven by circumstances that seemed far from a divine plan. But it positioned a deliverer into the right place at the right time. That hard place became a field where God sowed wisdom, integrity, and excellence into his servant’s heart. Obeying God when nothing made sense poured a foundation. Giving when it didn’t look like it mattered laid a framework. Loving, even when it came out all wrong, was part of the process.
My understanding of God’s plan had big holes in it. I had to search for the new ways his call still beckoned. It was hard to grasp that in this dry desert God’s river still flowed. Still harder to understand that it flowed through me in unexpected ways and places. In order to fulfill my call, I had to stop hoarding my God-given supply and release it instead.
Joseph had only heard about Egypt as a young man. He couldn’t have known he’d arrive there in shackles as a deliverer they didn’t know they’d need. Interpreting the king’s dream was only the beginning. Joseph’s leadership ensured survival for Egypt and the surrounding nations in the clutches of massive famine. His strategy reflected the wisdom he’d learned in a dark, uncertain time.
The storehouses Joseph built to fill with Egypt’s abundance were a picture of himself. They represented a man who’d let God keep pouring into him when nothing made sense. Like filling a well, God visited in the dark hours, depositing his wealth in Joseph’s hungry heart.
It took a while, but my perspective shifted away from loss. I was a storehouse too. The call of God had moved forward. It still shaped and led me. Somehow in the midst of what I thought had been plundered, he expanded me instead. He’d been adding while I’d felt only subtraction. I was kinder, not as quick to prove I knew his will. I opened my heart to new friends and new purposes. Rest came as I released my need to be in control. Best of all, this time prepared me to feed others richer, sweeter bread from the Master.
My schedule relaxed so I had time to write, study, and then teach in our new church. A couples group met at our house each Saturday night. I began a ministry to the brokenhearted. I found my own heart healing as I soaked in the peach-streaked sky on early morning runs. I wasn’t on the six o’clock news at the right hand of a king, determining a strategy to avert national famine. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t feeding the hungry. I’d found them all around me.
The wisdom God put in my storehouse through his Word comforted and encouraged me. It gave me hope and pulled me out of depression. That same hope formed words in me to help others move forward. In the same way it shone light on the lies I’d believed, it helped others come into freedom. It was God in a new place, speaking in a new way that opened my heart to hear for others.
My storehouse wasn’t filled in the easy times. God filled it when I didn’t understand and when I thought I was depleted. The calling wasn’t mine. It was the Lord, all along, moving me forward in the middle of what I didn’t like, couldn’t understand, and longed to flee. It was proof that I didn’t have to be in charge after all. I could trust his positioning. And stand as his storehouse.
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18).
Laurel Thomas is a freelance writer from Edmond, Oklahoma.