When I'm caught in heavy traffic, I get excited when I remember a shortcut. It's such a great feeling to jump off the interstate, hit a few side roads, and pass all those cars stalled in the rush-hour standstill.
But many times my brilliant idea is thwarted by highway engineers. My ingenious shortcut is suddenly sabotaged by construction, a roadblock, and then a detour that leads me through multiple turns right back to the interstate. I end up back where I started, forced to return to the traffic jam and go through it to get home.
It's the same journey on our way to our promised land. Despite our best efforts to find alternate routes, there's only one way to get there – through.
And we can go through one of two ways – in the rideshare lane that zips along, or hugging the shoulder creeping along. We actually do have a choice about that part. Even the children of Israel could have shaved some serious time off their trip. Going through was essential for them, but their trek through the wilderness was actually only an eleven-day journey. It didn't have to take forty years, but in essence they chose that for themselves by fighting the process – grumbling, complaining, resisting the work God wanted to do in them.
We all have some version of the wilderness to go through. It's a season that exposes how vulnerable we are, how defenseless we feel, how small we are in comparison to the wide expanse of this world. It's how God prepares us to be well able to overcome the giants in our lives. It's a place we cycle through over and over again in our lives – but in different areas – always getting freer and freer from shame each time. It is no unexpected detour, no wrong turn, no mistake in navigation. It is the path to freedom God has chosen.
But it's never a place we go looking for. When we find ourselves there, we tend to use words like being thrust into, or lost in, or wandering through the wilderness. But God is changing our thinking. He is leading, transforming, delivering, and freeing us. We just have to decide that where he leads, we will follow.
God's goal for us is freedom, true spiritual freedom – a life no longer bound by the weights of shame's false guilt and relentless regret, no longer haunted by shame's fears and worries, no longer captive to shame's old habits and self-protective responses that keep us repeating those same old shame-filled patterns.
God's goal for us is not merely to change our circumstances – it is to change us! This is the evidence of his unconditional love for you and me.