Holy Ground in the Wilderness

One of the true blessings of my time in Botswana this summer was our daily time of corporate singing, teaching of the word and prayer. The cultural differences peaked my interest, but more than that, they opened my eyes and my heart to a worship of God unfettered by my own “standard”. Here the pastors expound on God’s Word to us was precious and challenging. Solomon, a  young man of the Chiikahani tribe shared on one more about  God’s design and timing, reminding us that often Holy Ground is to be found in the wilderness.

As I reflected on my own wilderness experiences I could indeed see where I had found myself on holy ground.  This reminder encouraged my heart and challenged me to believe God for good even on the “back side of the wilderness.” I tucked it away as another treasure from God, mined in the desert of Botswana.

Last week, I sat in a hospital cafeteria with a cup of coffee and my computer, trying to make the most of the time I had to wait for Joel to get out of surgery. He was having a second procedure  on his neck, this time,  to implant an electrical stimulator that would mitigate some of his constant pain. It wasn’t a high risk surgery and he was supposed to be done in time to go home the same day. We were hopeful he would actually leave the hospital in considerably less pain than when we arrived, as one nurse had assured us this indeed happens with patients who have this surgery.

But alas, that was not to be the case with Joel. I stared at the surgeon mystified as he explained that unfortunately something was blocking movement along the spine and he could not place the lead wire where it needed to go! After several attempts and a second incision further up his spinal column, the surgeon decided he had put Joel through enough trauma. Closing Joel back up, he wrapped up the surgery, with no device in place!

My heart just ached as I thought how Joel was going to feel, waking up and being told the surgery was useless. I could imagine his interpretation of anything the surgeon tried to explain to him would sound something like this: “Sorry, instead of helping you with pain, we’ve just added to it!”  It isn’t easy news for my weary heart to digest. How is he going to take it? I wondered.

I didn’t have to wait long. As they brought him back to the room where he would finish his recovery, he offered me a quirky grin and said, “Well I guess that didn’t work.”

“I’m so sorry. I just feel terrible for you!” I said.

“Oh, I felt like crying for you when they told me.” Joel answered. I sighed and almost laughed.
And that was it, a moment of holy ground in the middle of our wilderness. A moment of God giving us the grace to grieve for one another and accept the outcome together.

We might not be on the back side of the desert, but more than three years of chronic pain, two surgeries, physical therapy, chiropractics, pain medication of any and every kind, sure does feel like the middle of a dry and weary place.  But we keep finding  that it’s not an empty place. He is here. The fire of his presence burns warm in us, around us, through us. And the promise of His provision for the future offers us rest.


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