I wouldn’t say that I adjusted well to life after college. Besides the whole job thing–I had to sit at my desk for, like, 8 hours straight. every day. and we didn’t get fall break. or christmas break. definitely not summer break. I even had to work on my birthday. the inhumanity!–but even besides all of that, I had grown used to living, working, eating, sleeping, worshipping, studying, doing everything with the group of people that I loved. We didn’t have Instagram, but my dorm window faced out onto the Oval, so pretty much the same thing. Anytime people wanted to be seen or found, that was the place to be.
And then I moved to Atlanta. I have six friends from my first three years there. Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe. You think I’m joking, but I cried happy tears for days when Rachel got off the plane.
Despite a job that I really loved, it was an incredibly lonely season.
Since then, I’ve moved several times, built communities with people across the globe and find myself right back here in Atlanta. And the past 15 months have been another lonely season. This time I have friends around me that I love, but somehow the wilderness still convinces me that I’m all alone.
When really, I’ve just shut out the people who would love me the most.
This one because she arrived at her promised land first and I was still here in the desert.
That one because I know it’s ugly when I’m in the valley place.
One because I no longer trusted she would want to war with me and the other because her battles were massive and, didn’t she know I had my own to fight?
But we weren’t meant to journey through the desert alone.
and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. [KJV]
The Lord grouped the Israelites into military formation, squadrons that marched together. Even before the battles emerged, he arranged them for what was to come.
He designed them to walk side-by-side, to learn each other’s gait. He trained them by test and trial, they could anticipate each other’s response. They learned to recognize each other’s voice and he bound them by shared experience so that when the battle came, they were prepared to fight alongside each other. They knew their order and they knew their place.
Fear tells us we must make this journey on our own.
The wilderness (and Instagram) whispers that everyone else has made it to their promised land, that we’re the only only ones left here in the desert and that the desolation of our season will keep even the most committed communities away. If everyone hasn’t actually abandoned us already, our belief that they will causes us to preemptively shut them out, afraid to let them enter our mess or join us in fighting our battles.
But the wilderness is not weathered well with the voices of pride and fear as our guides. We are not alone, and the belief that we are keeps us wandering on our own just steps from each other, oblivious to how close we are.
And so in the wilderness, we have to practice believing the truth when it doesn’t feel true in our lives. We practice letting others in when our instinct is to withdraw. We practice dropping our veil, no longer hiding between snapshots of perfectly posed lives. We practice emptying our hearts onto sleeves, truth spilling out along with our tears. We practice saying, “I need help” when we’re overwhelmed and, “I’ve got this one” when we can tell there’s another in need. We practice trusting each other and learning each other’s cries, believing we are not alone. We march together, fight together, and remind each other of the promise when the wilderness steals our sight.
We are harnessed together on this wilderness way and we were not meant to walk alone.