As I sat on the floor of my bathroom, my sweat soaked back pressed into the wall furthest from the toilet, my rear scrunching old magazines and my diaper cream streaked hands tenuously holding the sliding door shut, I decided it was time to re-evaluate the American Dream. A loving husband: check. A beautiful, sun-soaked home, five minutes from the beach: check. Children…double check. There they were, pounding on the door, moaning and rubbing their faces up against the fogged glass like zombies from some post-apocalyptic nightmare. I felt wrung out, used up…wasted. I felt dust accumulating around me like the brushes in my studio. I did nothing all day, and everything. I had settled for little “victories” such as the brushing of teeth (my own) and not pouring a sippy cup of wine until four…thirty…ish. I could have gotten a hotel room and slept for years. Or rented a shack in the Himalayas and painted for months. I felt forgotten and unappreciated. And the worst part was, I was desperately ashamed about all of those thoughts.
A wilderness is defined as an ‘uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.’ This was my wilderness. I considered myself used up and alone, except for that persistent pair of vultures circling me outside the bathroom door. As they usually do when I’m in crisis mode, my thoughts turned to the bible, and inexplicably, John the Baptist. That stinky, dreadlocked, locust eating, crazy-eyed desert dweller, crying out that people needed to get their asses in gear, was suddenly very relatable. Stinky? Hello. Dreadlocked? You betchya’. And considering I had just consumed a half eaten chicken nugget directly off of the kitchen floor an hour before, while simultaneously shrieking at my three year old that wiping his rear post poop is a NON-negotiable… I concluded that we were pretty much carved from the same tree, JTB and me.
Then, like a Lego block that nails you from across the room, I remembered one of the specific things that wild man had said. That Jesus “must become greater, and I become less.” I’m thinking it nicely foreshadowed God’s words to Paul later, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”(1Cor 12:9.) Now I don’t want to make it seem like I have these thunderbolt, “churchy” moments regularly. Honestly my first thought was, “wait did I accidentally memorize a verse?” And secondly, “I wonder if my old Sundayschool teacher is still allowing us to cash those in for prizes?” But then, flooding over me, came sketches of the last three years of motherhood. The beauty, the pain, the hope and the anxiety, these were all just soil he had used to grow up evidence of who He is. Seeds in the desert. That He is the kind of God who comforts in the dead of night when there is fever and fear. He is food on the doorstep. He is whiskey, tears and cigarettes with another mother while husbands (nervously) fill in. He is watching a thunderstorm with bodies huddled closely under covers that make me feel brave and strong. He is there when pregnancies don’t take and sorrow exposes your heart like it might actually burn. He is in the patience sowed when the paints are laid out and the monitor starts to scream. He is a latch that finally takes when you are bloodied and frantic. And He is in the gentle sunrise on the studio wall as you finally paint, that whispers, “I will waste NO part of you.”
I am keenly aware that I am not alone. We will all experience seasons of rust and dust. For every season of flourishing, there will be years of drought and controlled burn. Seasons where our hands are raw and cracked from soap, but our own feet are never washed. These are times that will either teach us the joy of serving others, or will turn us bitterly self seeking. The desolation is not purposeless. We “prepare the way” because the world watches what we do in the desert places. Especially where it is barren, we are ambassadors. We are the Voice Calling out in the wilderness.