Did you notice the longer you were in the valley, the more you lost sense of time?
Don’t get me wrong, you knew the days were passing. You knew the date and time. But you lost sense of the duration of your time in the valley.
That’s how it was for me.
At first, I was disorientated. Scared. Angry! As the aloneness closed in around me, I repeatedly called out for help only to hear my own voice echoing off the stone walls.
But before I knew it, routine settled in. Each day was much like the last with little to distinguish one moment from the next.
Then one day it hit me, I couldn’t remember the last time I reached out for help. Nor could I pinpoint when I accepted my isolation as the reality of my circumstances. All I knew is it happened.
And time marched on.
From somewhere deep in my soul I heard, “I’m here, Baby. Don’t be afraid. I’ve always been here. I’ve never left you.”
Relief overwhelmed me while a torrent of tears erupted from somewhere deep inside. I was unable to speak. Unable to breathe. Finally, between convulsing gasps, the only intelligible sound that escaped my lips was a Name.
And the dialog began…
I told Him everything. I left nothing out. My words kept pace with my tears. I broke down my expectation, hopes, and dreams and explained how they’d been destroyed by the betrayal, broken promises, and lies.
When I was done I was wrung out. Drained of emotion and tears.
And Jesus listened. He didn’t try to mollify, placate, or console me. He just listened, not missing one word. Or one tear.
When my words and tears finally ran dry, I sat in His presence for a long time. This was no exercise in spirituality. Truth is, I was so weary, jaded, and burned-out I didn’t have the strength to move. So I sat numb and empty, staring off into nowhere, still whispering His Name.
“Remember when you asked me if you could leave your church because you were aching for deeper, Bible-centered teaching rather than the seeker-sensitive/fluffy teaching that you were getting?”
“And I told you ‘No, I have one more thing for you to do here before you can go.’”?
I nodded. “Yes, and I did what you asked. I followed you. I saw you move and do things that couldn’t be explained any other way. I thought I was doing everything you asked me to do…I don’t’ understand.”
“You don’t understand because you missed the ‘one more thing’ part of why it wasn’t time for you to go yet. One. One thing. One. Not a repetitive thing. One thing. Not an annual thing. One thing.
“You don’t understand because you were focused on furthering the ministry I gave you not on furthering My Kingdom which this ministry is a part of. You went ahead without first coming to me to be sure this agreement was of me and part of the path I laid out for you. You sought to partner with a church you weren’t going to be with much longer. You missed what the One Thing was about.”
“So, writing the study wasn’t the One Thing?”
“No, it was. But you missed the purpose of writing it because you were focused on the opportunity, not Me. You were busy doing My will your way you didn’t stop to consider what My way was or what My purpose was. Nor did you stop to ask if your will was in alignment with mine.”
“No. I guess I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
“Baby, you have the right to be angry. But I’m challenging you to forego that right and TRUST ME. Trust me to guide you into the wilderness where I will teach you how to do My will My way. There I will take you deeper into My Word than ever before. And I will show you your path and teach you how to walk on it in order to carry out your role in My Plan. What’s it going to be?”
“Ok. Yes. I will follow you.” Let’s be real, where else did I have to go? The direction I was going in was a dead end, but I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going into the wilderness again.
But a ray of hope broke through my despair—maybe it was time to leave the church now. I was ready to shake the dust off my feet and move on. There was no reason to stay. My trust in the staff was shattered and I couldn’t see any future ministry opportunities. But before I could ask:
“No. You are still not done with The One Thing, and now you have something else to do.”
Something else to do? What? Why? What more could I possibly need to do?
“Oh. Lord, this is going to be HARD! And hold up! What do you mean I’m not done?! What more is there? The study is printed.”
“Just wait. Trust Me. I’ll show you.”
A few days later…
“Hey, Cheyenne, we, the leaders of the Wednesday morning ladies Bible study, would like you to come and introduce the study to our group. Tell us what you were going to tell the church and a little of your story. Tell us about your ministry. Introduce us to Samuel, Saul, and David. There are about 60 ladies and we meet in a large group before we break off into our small groups. You have about 20-30 minutes. And we start next week.”
I held my phone away from my ear and looked at it skeptically, my conversation with Jesus still fresh. Then I heard my friend, “Hey! Are you listening to me?”
In my heart, I heard, “Yes.” But I wondered if that was my yes or His…it was His. How did I know? Because my mind was screaming, NO!
“Yeah, I heard you. Sure I can do that.” It’s better than nothing, I thought. And knowing these women would faithfully dig into the study gave me a spark of joy.
I labored over the introduction. I wanted it to be meaningful and personal. I desperately wanted these women to fall in love with the people who fill the pages of 1 & 2 Samuel as I had. But more than anything I wanted them to see their story reflected in these precious Scriptures. I wanted the Word to come ALIVE for them. And be PERSONAL to them.
I arrived early the following Wednesday to pray and pace out my jitters before the ladies arrived. But watching them arrive made me forget my nerves.
I was struck by what an amazing group of women they were!
It was evident they’d spent the summer months apart and were now thrilled to be in each other’s company again. Their hugs, love, and genuine friendship is something I hadn’t witnessed or experienced at our church. The bonds between these women were strong—forged by hours of diving deep into the Scriptures together and made stronger by prayer with and for each other. It was obvious these women had done numerous battles together. That they’d wrestled with hard things and walked in the fire with each other. It was beautiful to stand back and watch.
This is what the Church was supposed to be like!
I confess, I was a little jealous—and disappointed I hadn’t joined this group sooner. However, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them. I was thankful to be in their presence, even if for that morning.
After I gave my introduction I was invited to sit in on my friend’s small group. As this was week one, the group time was abbreviated. Regardless, it was fun to connect with some of these ladies in a more intimate setting. Their enthusiasm was contagious. And their excitement to have “the author” in their midst was surprising—and humbling.
What they didn’t know was I had to keep reminding myself I was only there for that day and not to get attached. No easy task.
As we were wrapping up and people were leaving, several women asked if I was going to be there every week. I smiled and said, “no, that’s not in the plans.” Then a few women pulled me aside and asked if I would be willing to give a teaching every week, like the videos of the other Bible studies they’d done. “I’d not even thought of that. But that’s not up to me. It’s up to the leaders.” But my brain was screaming, you are not prepared for this. You have no teachings written, let alone practiced. Walk away before they notice.
Then a tiny whisper echoed in my heart, “Be still. Trust me.”
Could this be the rest of The One Thing?
The next day my friend called. During the course of the study, I had the privilege of presenting a 20-25 minute teaching to go along with the week they had just completed. AND I had the opportunity to sit in on all the groups in the coming weeks. This was a benefit because I was able to hear their discussions and get honest real-time feedback on things. What was confusing, what resonated, what they learned, what God was speaking to them, and how the study was affecting their lives. It was an unprecedented privilege!
Over the course of this study, what these women didn’t know is how God used them.
- Their invitation WAS the last part of The More Thing. It wasn’t a consolation prize, it was The Grand Prize—for me anyway.
- They provided a window to see what God was calling me to do, not just a crack in the wall.
- They gave me a chance to see others interacting with what I wrote—something not many authors get.
- They gave me honest feedback, which in turn has helped me become a better writer and teacher.
But God also kept them blind to how He used them to begin the healing process in my heart.
- How He used their love, encouragement, and support to help me forgive the past hurt AND the current hurt.
- How their enthusiasm for the study made me eager to follow Jesus into the wilderness to learn what He had to teach me.
- How He opened my eyes and heart to their hurts, struggles, joys—lives.
All of this not only enabled me to better connect with them, but it connected their heart to mine so I now see their faces when I write. And for that, I will always be grateful.
Interestingly, despite being surrounded by people on Wednesday mornings, despite my family being home, and despite sitting in the stands at my boys’ sporting events, I was still isolated and alone. God allowed none to walk beside me in my pain. He allowed no one to share the load or divide the hurt. He reserved that place for Himself alone.
During those weeks He got real with me in my quiet times. He pulled things apart. Removed the broken. And put me back together—while keeping me fragile. Tender. I had a ways to go before I was healed. (He was saving that for the wilderness.) But I was whole. Able to function and do life. I had to learn that He is the one who sustains me regardless of my present state. He is the one who guides me and watches over me. And He is the one who prepares me when I choose to trust Him and follow Him.
What did He use to do this? Deuteronomy 1. Only Deuteronomy 1.
And my life has never been the same.
Until Next Time
2 thoughts on “The Long Road Back: The Isolation. The Dialogue. The Group.”
God bless the broken road….that allowed our paths to cross, and allowed a deeper work His way. One step right? “One step is far enough for faith to see….take that and your next duty will be told thee.” We prayed; God heard….and praise Him He never lets us go! I too, am learning to listen…and it is always in new ways. He uses the broken in ways that allow HIS light to shine through the cracks. God bless YOU!