So, a bit of backstory if you don’t know me. I play music for a living with my fiancee, Molly. We travel all over the place, and one of the most meaningful compliments we receive is just how happy we look. I was a solo musician before I met Molly, so as folks who were familiar with me get to know her, I’m hearing more and more comments about the difference in my personality. Something along the lines of; “you used to be a sad bluesman, but now, you look so happy and joyful!” Molly has been responsible for a lot of great changes in my life, and she does make me very happy, but I’d be lying if I said she was the only reason.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “wandering through the wilderness.” The Israelites had to do it for forty years before reaching the promised land. Jesus had to do it while he was tested and tempted, and I think we all have phases of our life where we have to go through a mental, spiritual wilderness. That’s where I was before I met Molly. I was coming out of a four year relationship that ended badly, and I felt like damaged goods. I was also at the lowest point of a multi-year struggle with my faith. I was carrying around a lot of biases and bitterness, pain and pride, and I just didn’t know what to believe. Michael Gungor (one of my favorite musicians) has talked about a moment where he was crying on the bathroom floor of a hotel, hundreds of miles from home, unsure of whether he could believe in anything anymore. That’s the wilderness.
The wilderness was where I spent much of the last few years. Wandering. Searching. Reaching. Struggling. I figured that God must have created us and decided to just let us go, careening off into the universe. But then, just a few days into 2017, I met Molly. She saw right through all of that brokenness on the surface. She and I both knew that she couldn’t fix it, but she challenged me in the right ways, pushed the right buttons to get me going in a different direction. Her grace and love got me to reexamine my biases and bitterness, and start to let go of all that pain and pride. God was reaching out for me the whole time, and I just couldn’t see it. I was too preoccupied with my own pain to let go of it. When it comes right down to it, I just had to get out of my own way. Jesus, as it turns out, loves broken people. Accepting that was the hardest part.
It took some time in the wilderness, but here we are. I’m grateful for all of it. So, if I seem happier, that’s true, but I wanted you to know the whole story. A lot of things can make you happy, if for a brief moment, and it’s easy to spend time chasing that spark of emotion. When we think about real, sustained happiness, I’m pretty sure we’re actually talking about gratitude. My friend Dean Phelps recently shared some wise words that his father passed onto him; “I have never know anyone who was grateful who was at the same time bitter or sniping or petty.” When I think back on those days in the wilderness, gratitude was missing.
I know that things won’t always go smoothly. Life is full of bumps in the road, some bigger than others. But with enough grace and love, I hope that I can face all of them with gratitude. If you’re going through your own wilderness, I wish the same for you.