Lessons from the Wasteland: Lean Not

Published June 10, 2013 by joypatton

When I was little, there was a ditch near our house where we would often play. We put a board across the ditch to be our bridge. I have a memory of my brother using a long stick to poke around in the shallow water underneath. One day he put the stick in the water and leaned on it as hard as he could. That day the stick broke, and he ended up in the water soaking wet. And I was on dry ground laughing hysterically.

In the middle of last winter, this picture came to mind. I felt like I had been standing on the bridge, a bridge that God had placed in front of me. And I had leaned in hard, trusting that we would get to where we were going. But this winter it felt like every door I knocked on was slammed closed, and every window of opportunity a miss. My dream was suffocating and dying because there were no places for it to go. The stick had broken, and I was at the bottom of the ditch, muddy and soaking wet.

As the spring came, God was asking me to step on the bridge again. The little girl in me stood there still shivering and wet, shaking her head. There was no way that I could get on that bridge again and lean on the stick. I knew what would happen, and I was not stupid enough to try it again. I didn’t want to end up in the mud again. I worked very hard to avoid pain, so why would I knowingly walk into it?

On a sunny spring day in the park, I was recounting this to my friend as we sat on a bench. She asked one question that changed the whole picture. “So the stick you were leaning on, was that God?” I shook my head yes and told her that God was the one who had let me down.

All winter I had been hurt and angry because I believed God was shutting me down and killing my dream. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do what he made and gifted and called me to do. I felt betrayed and even accused God of being wrong.

As our conversation went on though, I realized that I hadn’t been leaning on Him. He wasn’t the stick that broke. The stick that broke was my own understanding. I had been leaning on other things, trusting other things to confirm my call, seeking the approval of others and chasing worldly success. Those were the things that let me down. When those idols failed, I was left in the mud.

Today he is asking me to just get on the bridge again. I’m very afraid. But one step at time, he will lead me across the bridge to where we are going. I’m afraid that I will once again be distracted by other things and start to think that they will get me there. This time we walk step by hesitant step across the bridge. Today I’m terrified of making a move without him. Today I’m grateful for the things he has given me to do, and I’m trying to joyfully walk in them.

Today I realize that he isn’t the stick; he is the bridge. The bridge never changed and it never went away. It wasn’t the bridge that let me down; it was my own understanding. The bridge was still there asking me to trust, and slowly in small ways I am learning again that He is trustworthy. My eyes are open to the ways he is gently wooing me back to Him and reminding me that I can trust Him.

“Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6


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