I was on a two-week trek across the Holy Land with my family. We just departed the Dead Sea where my sister and I took videos of each other doing sit-ups in the high-density water before gleefully stocking up on mineral face masks and bath salts. Our next destination called for a bumpy, dusty ride through the Judean Desert to Masada, an ancient fortress in Southern Israel. The desert was definitely far less enchanting than the Dead Sea! Dust swirled through the open windows as I blinked it away and squinted up toward the burning sun.
As far as I could see, it was empty miles of dry, cracked earth with no life or vegetation in sight. Just an endless stretch of sand dunes and rocky terrain. I thought to myself how the Israelites must have felt so helpless and so hopeless wandering through the dusty heat that stretched on forever. What a wilderness.
A few years ago, God sent me through a long series of delays, detours, and disappointments where it felt like I was back in the dry, empty Judean Desert with no end or hope in sight. I sat for the Texas Bar Exam and failed. Studied again for 3 months and took it a second time and failed. Had a series of car accidents and the worst wreck completely totaled my car. Got laid off from my job. Medical issues on and off and had to postpone the Bar for another year. Took the Bar a third time and failed. Received some hard and shocking news. Two surgeries. Broken relationships. Took the Bar a fourth time and failed, just four points away from passing.
To make matters worse, I had to wait several months each time for my results from the Texas Board of Law Examiners (so I couldn’t practice law in the meantime) and the Bar is only offered twice a year. And under Texas law, I could only take the exam five times. Despite my very best efforts, my career was getting kicked further down the road, the pressure was mounting, and I was terrified – how I was supposed to build my career (let alone make a living) if I couldn’t pass the Bar?
For those three years, I was just fighting to keep my head above water. I felt like a surfer who went from smooth sailing to suddenly being caught in the impact zone of a wave. Tumbling and crashing, desperately clawing for the surface only to be dragged deeper underwater. As the girl who thought anything less than 110% was failure, it was excruciatingly humbling to fail the Bar the first time, let alone four times. All my hard work and sacrifices in law school was rewarded with four failed Bar exams and a three-year delay in my career. Each of these blows was like a wrecking ball to my identity and self-worth. I felt deflated and defeated. I dreaded meeting new people when they would ask, “So, what do you do?” and I’d rattle off a vague answer and change the subject.
Exasperated and exhausted one cold December night, I asked God for a change. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I always chose a “word of the year” that embodied a prayer or goal for myself that year (like “grace” or “perseverance”). But that night, I decided to ask God to choose a word for me.
The word He gave me was, “GLORY.” Umm okay God, what is that supposed to mean?
As the year unfolded, it became less about what I was asking of God, and more about what He was asking of me. I started digging into the meaning of my word.
“GLORY” (Hebrew: “kavod”) translates to
“abundance, weight and majesty”
One morning, I opened my Bible to Exodus 13 where God led the Hebrews out of Egypt from slavery and into the Promised Land. A detail caught my eye. After Pharaoh let the Hebrews go, God specifically chose to not lead His people by the land of the Philistines although that was the shorter, more direct route. Instead – He led them by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea (Exodus 13:17-18). In Exodus 14, God revealed His purpose for the longer route:
“I will gain GLORY over the Egyptians and the world will know that I am God.”Exodus 14:4
If I passed the Bar the first time, that would have been the easier, shorter, more direct route – the path of least resistance. But instead, God chose to take me through a dry season of vulnerability and uncertainty so whenever the time came for Him to slice open the Red Sea and make a way, God would be glorified, not me. If I passed the first time, I would have felt like I succeeded on my own and it would have been harder for me to give all the credit to God. And through that time in the wilderness through all the career delays, medical detours, and life disappointments, He completely changed my heart – which also changed my prayers:
- I grew less hungry for God’s answers and provision, and more hungry for God’s glory.
- I spent less time seeking God’s hand (what He could do for me), and more time seeking His face (simply who He is).
- My prayers changed from asking God to rescue me from the furnace, to asking Him to help me be steadfast in the flames.
If you’re currently facing a wilderness season and your hope is shriveling up, I encourage you to take heart! God truly has a beautiful intent behind the delays, detours, and disappointments. Like the Israelites, your wilderness season has a greater purpose. These dry deserts are catalysts where uncultivated hearts are cultivated, where vacant souls are filled, and where fossilized sin is excavated. Wild wastelands are transformed into wellsprings of life!
So much easier said than done, right? Stay tuned for Part II next week! I will share the three key lessons God taught me through the very Hebrew root of the word:
“GLORY” (Hebrew: kavod): “Abundance, weight, majesty”
And through those lessons, your journey through the desert may just be transformed to be the most beautiful journey of your life!