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Wonky Wilderness


For the first 40 years of my life I was searching. My life was a journey of ups and downs, turns and twists. I made good choices and not so good choices as I tried to find my way, my purpose, my reason for being. But, although I was on that search, life was happening and most of it was fulfilling and purposeful. I was a wife and a mother and I loved being those particular things. I spent time learning to cook and to be a homemaker, which didn’t always turn out the best but I tried. I enjoyed my family – my own small family, but also the extended family as well. I spent a good deal of time with my mom and dad, my sisters and brothers, my in-laws. I was usually involved in church, as faith was (and is) important to me. There were certainly some regrets along the way but for the most part, life was full and good.


Even so, there was a persistent feeling within me that there was something missing, something I was meant to do that I just hadn’t found yet. And then, at the age of 41, I started back to school. I had not finished college so I started there, but in my first year, I experienced a strong sense of God wooing me to seminary. It was puzzling and seemed impossible at first, yet it all worked out and I began to find confidence that ministry was the thing God had been preparing me for.


I was 47 by the time I finished school and was ordained. 23 years of ministry in various forms was fulfilling, challenging and delightful! I never questioned my call and, while I served in a number of different places, I always felt I was right where God wanted me at the moment and that He was preparing me for whatever would come next. When I finally reached retirement age I kept going. I started all this late in life and I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. I didn’t feel that it was time. Until all of a sudden, I did. I began to realize that what had been such a joy in all the challenges and many tasks there were as a pastor was beginning to feel difficult. I loved my congregation but I just knew the time was finally right. And so, I retired with no regrets. I miss the people, but I still believe it was the right time.


So, for close to nine months now I’ve been retired. What a change! It wasn’t just a change from working to not working, but we moved to a new community which meant downsizing, getting settled, finding new doctors and pharmacies and places to shop. It’s also been a big, time-consuming deal working through the insurance changes. Most of those things are settling down now, and I’m very thankful for that. But I find myself in an odd place. I’m trying to figure out once again, what is next, what my daily routine is (so far, I don’t seem to have one). I’m writing a lot more and that feels so good! But I’ve found myself trying out things and then finding that it doesn’t feel right to me.


The hardest part of all is finding my church home. After all these years of being the leader/pastor/preacher I’m unsettled and not sure what I want or where I belong. I’m looking for my people and I’ve found wonderful friends and good preachers, good places to worship with amazing music, which is important to me. Yet, I’m still searching.


I feel a little like I’m in a wilderness period, which is appropriate, I guess, since we are coming into Lent. We used the wilderness theme quite often in the churches I served during Lent. God had Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness where they moved and dwelt for 40 years before getting to go into the Promised Land. The people were restless and not real thrilled with wilderness living but it was there that God did some major molding and teaching his people. I guess I’m in a bit of a spiritual wilderness in this part of my journey of life. Let’s hope it won’t be 40 years! I don’t expect I have that long to wait.


Wilderness feels dry and uncertain. This wilderness feels kind of wonky (if that’s even a word.) I am enjoying the freedom to do what I’m doing right now and I’m giving myself the privilege to not do the things I decide aren’t right for me. I’m working on finding the rhythm to my days. I believe that God is working in me to lead me to new place where I feel more at home.


A wonky wilderness can be

A place of growth

A place of rest

A beautiful desert

A time for reflection

On the past

The present

And the future


I will wait here in my wonky wilderness for now where there is searching, rest, peace, confusion and uncertainty, yet, beauty and gratitude and thanksgiving as well.


As from the days in my past, I will trust that I am right where I am supposed to be on this journey of grace. My life scripture continues to be:


Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

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© 2020 by Dr. Sharlyn DeHaven Gates