Of Wells and Wilderness

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of “call” and wanted to share a few snippets of yesterday’s sermon that dealt with mine. The texts were about the cranky, thirsty Exodus (17) community and the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well in John 4.

We set all kinds of limits for ourselves: “I would never do this,” or “I could never do that.” Often God has something else in mind for us. We set all kinds of limits on God: “The God I believe in would never do this,” or “If God would do that, I could never believe in God.”

As my first marriage was ending, I found myself wandering in the wilderness. I had 21 credits toward my Master of Divinity degree; I needed 79 more!! I had three children at home, one of whom was just a year old. My school was 125 miles away, but all the support structures in my life were here in City By the Sea, and I was afraid to start over in a new place without them. And I wondered if God could really still want me. Because getting divorced, being a divorced person, was something I would never do, something I could never do, and yet it was something I had done.

It didn’t seem to matter to me that other divorced people were in ministry! Somehow for me it was different, I think in part because I wondered how I could ever be a good mom and a good pastor at the same time, when I was feeling so alone. Why did God bring me out into the wilderness and give me nothing to drink? Why did God meet me at the well and confuse me with images and ideas that made no sense? I must confess that I was more than a little angry with God. Well, God knew everything about me. And in that wilderness time I learned more about myself, too.

I learned that although I was pretty forgiving of others, I was not very forgiving of myself. I learned that the two needed to go hand in hand, or that the spirit of judgment could leap out and surprise me. I learned that I was as quarrelsome as the Israelites and as questioning as the Samaritan woman. And I learned that it wasn’t God’s job to make my path smooth and easy, but rather to keep calling me to walk further.