Have you ever experienced a season that felt as dry as a desert, as bitter as a blizzard, and as wild and unknown as a wilderness?
A season that wrecks you to the innermost parts of your core
And it lasted almost four years.
A season that tests every part of your strength and ounce of your willpower, backing you into a corner where your head fills with thoughts of fear and doubt causing you to question everything you once knew to be true.
Sometimes that season lasts far more than what feels like just a season, it lasts years, occasionally even decades.
But it's in this wilderness time when you have a very important decision to make ---
To realize that this is only one part of the journey, and to allow yourself to truly learn and grow and develop into a person of wisdom, valor and strength.
Or, to succumb to the difficulties and challenges and be completely overtaken by anxiety, discouragement and disillusionment.
As much as Haiti has been a wildly beautiful adventure it has also been at times, my thickest, deepest and darkest wilderness.
It's easy to look at photos and short social media updates and believe that a life that has taken the path less traveled is one to be adorned with accolades and praise. It's normal to assume that life here is so beautiful and grand and filled with so many mountain top experiences that yield and abundance of self-gratification.
And sure, there are those days I feel like I'm walking on air. The days when my heart beams with pride to look and see what all God has done using me as an instrument of His work and grace.
But, there have been so many other days when I get lost in my head, when I doubt myself, my abilities and all I want to do is curl up into a ball and cry.
For four years I've had to adapt to a world so very different from the one in which I was raised. This world has been so rich and vibrant, but sometimes the waves have crashed hard and left me alone and in pain.
I don't ever think of myself as someone any better or different than anyone else, in fact, much of what I have experienced I would never wish on another soul.
I spent a good chunk of my first few years in Haiti avoiding and ignoring the fact that I was being taken through the very heart of a wilderness. I wanted to stay on the high on new adventures and experiences and not face the fact that I had real pain and issues in need of being dealt with.
For most of my life I've considered myself rather fearless, but that of course was simply because I had never been placed in a situation where I was forced to face my fears.
Isolation; the realization of feeling and being completely and utterly alone.
And then it happened. All of a sudden I ended up on a crazy island alone figuring out how in the world to survive.
The pain of the realization of what true sacrifice means, what it means to weigh the cost and recognize how much must be surrendered in order to fully move forward in the direction that your life is destined to go, can at times leave you feeling as though you can't breathe, as though someone has kicked you in the gut and you're left gasping for air.
When you break your leg you can try to ignore the pain. You can pretend like the damage isn't there and it will somehow suddenly resolve itself, but that fact is, you can't leave broken bones and unattended. You can't escape the pain and imagine it's not there. You have to walk through every ounce of the pain. You have to go through the entire healing and rehabilitation process in order to be able to walk again.
And such it is with the wildernesses of life.
We have to walk through them in order to come out on the other side. We have to face every fear, feel every ounce of pain, and learn every difficult, challenging and uncomfortable lesson.
Often times we are deathly afraid of the revelation that comes with the season of wilderness. All the realizations that expose our places of deepest vulnerability, frailties and the secrets we bury and hide with the intention of never being discovered or seen.
However, it's in the wilderness where we begin to find our truest selves. Where we being to discover who we truly are and what we are made out of.
It's where you get to realize you're stronger than you ever expected yourself to be.
You learn you can withstand the most powerful winds and rains and still be standing once it passes.
And the most beautiful truth is that every season of wilderness will come to an end. Every winter will be followed by spring, and every desert has an oasis.
Last year I read the acclaimed tale of The Alchemist, a story of a young boy on a quest to discover his personal legend, or destiny for lack of a better term. There is so much beauty and truth written in this book that directly correlates with the theme of walking through life's deserts such as the following quote:
When you're walking in the pathway of your destiny, you will be tested, every single ounce of you. You'll be forced to question if you made a mistake, and at times, even question your very existence.
Many people want to give up right before the clearing and the path out of the wilderness appears, or as The Alchemist put it, they die of thirst right as palm trees have appeared on the horizon.
I've wanted to give up so many times.
So many times I have thought about getting on a plane, leaving this godforsaken place and never looking back.
But then, I remember that Haiti, the wildernesses it throws my way, and all of the frustrations that come with this life are all apart of my personal legend, my destiny.
I have the choice to give up right as help arrives, or I can choose to persevere and learn the lesson that will only make me stronger and wiser, and more equipped to continue.
For as long as I live I will have wildernesses I'm required to walk through.
I will have heartache and pain.
I will have love and loss.
I will have times of defeat and feelings of disheartenment.
However, I will also have the opportunity to use those moments to allow me to reveal to me how to do this life better, how to love deeper, how to fight injustice more passionately, and how to help guide others through their own individual wildernesses.
I can die of thirst, or I can wait and know that the palm trees will appear on the horizon.
I can choose to be overcome by hopelessness, or I can know that each wilderness is an opportunity to prove that I am ready and capable, equipped and prepared to receive and walk into the realizations of my dreams.
So, take heart.
The wilderness is only a season, and you will come out and see the horizon once again.