The Wilderness in Between, Part 2
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
I am not who I was
And not yet who I will be…
But in the wilderness in between
Will you walk with me?
Last time I wrote I began with the end. I didn’t plan on it, it just happened that way. That’s how it is when I write, strange as that seems. I begin a process and have no idea what the end will be. I haven’t formulated these thoughts beforehand. I have ideas in seed form and then I open this computer (a shiny new MacBook Air, praise the LORD and thank you, Steve!) and start typing, and they grow as I go. The process creates the result. And I am always amazed at what comes out that I never knew was there, whether beautiful or frightening. Oftentimes it ends up being both.
Can I tackle the first line today? “I am not who I was.” My stomach drops a bit when I read those five tiny words. I squirm and wiggle inside and literally just want to shut the slick gray lid of this thing and walk away. Because to say that opens a whole can of proverbial worms. Who was I? And just which past me are you referring to? The “me-before-Christ”? (Yep, she was quite the bald-faced sinner.) How about the me from 10 years ago? (She seemed to be doing pretty well). Or three years ago? (Struggling to get some footing). Or last summer? (Weary but hopeful). Or yesterday? (A bit bewildered and bereft, wondering what the future holds).
Ah, these questions are a ruse. They are philosophical filibusters. They take me in a direction where this can stay cerebral. My flesh can remain untouched, even stimulated, by this discussion of which periods of the past I mean. “I am not who I was” may mean different things on different days, but it is always meant to be a spiritual reality, a present-moment consciousness of deep change that the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in me. Not only that, but it is meant to be a statement and declaration of faith—faith not in myself and my ability to do anything, but faith in the One who has called me and transformed me and continually calls me and transforms me.
“I am not who I was” is at this point in my walk with Christ a monumentally powerful declaration. One that takes every ounce of faith I can scrounge up in this heart of mine. Why? Because everything in me tells me I am still the same and can never change. I want to weep when I write that. I don’t want to admit it’s true, but it is. I want to believe that He has changed me in deep places and that I don’t have to have the same dark thoughts, behaviors, and motivations I had in the past. But when I live out my days, I find those past companions are awfully persistent and persevering. They do not go easily, and they wear me down when I fight them. They whisper and whimper and whine, and they like to constantly remind me how incredibly weak and foolish I still am. It’s hard not to listen. It’s hard to face them and say with conviction: “I am not who I was.” But if I will ever make it out of this wilderness, I am going to have to learn how to believe this and not give in to those lies.
How does a person change in their core self—the “inner being” that Jesus, Paul, David and many others describe to us in the scriptures? When I look for markers and signs in my day to day life, I find they are very elusive indeed. I think I might catch a glimmer of change from time to time, but when I try to say, for example, “Look! I’m no longer gossiping! I’m so trustworthy!”—as soon as the thought is in my head, I remember 10 times I spilled someone else’s stuff to another person and I am instantly reminded of how I have not in fact changed at all! Yes, the day to day can be honestly pretty discouraging.
But when I look back over the years? Then I do see it. I see growth and change and new levels of brokenness and humility that I never could have imagined in my younger days. I see how incredibly different my thought patterns are, how much more compassion I have than ever before, how much more wisdom I walk in now. I feel these changes more than anything—in that inner being, the deep places, the core self and heart we talk so much about in the church. And when I recognize and acknowledge that, I believe I give glory to God and not myself. His transforming power is deep and long and high and wide, just like his love. And to say that he has reached in and changed me is one of the highest forms of praise and worship I can give to him.
And the wilderness? Oh yes, that wild and wonderful wilderness, ha. I’ll have to tackle that one next time. But one thing I can say about it now is that it changes us more than any other instrument in this world, of that I am convinced. “I am not who I was” is a statement that can only be made for someone willing to enter the desert places in life and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.