119 days post life changing surgery and for the most part I’m doing well. I’m healing. Physically, mentally and spiritually, the pieces are slowly being put back together. I’m adjusting to a new normal as one who breathes from my neck instead of my nose. Most days we are in a groove. I’ve even started to dream again, which is huge after something like this comes along and totally changes your life and seemingly steals your dreams.
Then sometimes its the little things that make me cry. Tonight it was updating my PayPal account to include a picture. A selfie I took of myself last year before the surgery. No larytube. No scars. No stoma. And realizing I’ll never have that again. It brings the pain, the hurt, the disappointment and the wonder of it all back up in my face.
I grieve but not as one that has no hope.
Remember Moses? He was royalty. He lived the beginning of his life as a prince in Egypt. The sky was the limit for him. Anything possible. He had lots of reasons to hope! Lots of reasons to dream. I bet he even dreamed about using his status to help free his people from slavery. Until one fearful day when he killed the Egyptian for beating an Israelite. Fear of punishment sent him on the run. He settled on a mountain called Horeb and it was here that Moses met God in a burning bush. It was here on this mountain of desolation where God began fueling Moses with dreams again. Old dreams long buried in the bleak and empty barren mountain existence that God met Moses. An encounter that began a relationship. An appointment that would eventually lead to Moses experiencing the glory of God and meeting with him face to face like a friend (Exodus 33:11).
The word Horeb in Hebrew literally means “dried up ground.” Imagine that. Moses went from a place of hope and possibility as a prince in Egypt to literally living on a mountain of dried up ground. Fruit doesn’t grow in dried up ground. It’s not a place of growth or renewal. Hopelessness, despair and desolation thrive in places of dried up ground.
Have you ever experienced a season of “dried up ground”? Barren. Fruitless. Without life. Loss of some kind usually brings us to this mountain. For me it was the loss of a larynx and with it a livelihood and ability to communicate. For some it’s a devious and unexpected loss of promise in divorce or a loss of a dream of family in infertility. Maybe you’ve lost a child or loved one after praying for healing over and over. Confusion. Doubt. Hopelessness. Anger. Despair. We’ve all been on our mountain named Horeb. The specifics might be different, but the underlying commonality is one of “dried up ground.”
Something hit me as I read this story about Moses in Exodus 3. It was there in that place of desolation and hopelessness that Moses heard God say, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Knowing Moses stood on dried up ground made me wonder what in the world could make it holy?
The Lord commissioned him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and into the land promised for them. Moses, living from a place of hopelessness and desolation, questioned God saying he didn’t have what it took. God on the other hand is a God of purpose and intention. He saw through Moses’ weaknesses and led him on an adventure of a lifetime. One that earned Moses a trophy in the “heroes of faith” trophy case of Hebrews 11. An adventure marked with and by the glory of God Himself. Moses’ face shone radiant with Shekhihah Glory. Moses sat in the tent of meetings and talked with God as a friend face to face. Wow. I want that, don’t you? Snuggled up at a cozy table sipping coffee with the Lord. Laughing at jokes together. Sharing. Talking.
Have you ever felt desolate? Hopeless from your circumstances? I too feel ruined at times when the reality of the laryngectomy hits me. Sometimes I sit on my personal Mt. Horeb for a moment thinking of everything I’ve lost. When little things like loading a profile picture hit me trying the suck out the hope that’s left in me. I can relate to Moses and where he would have been when he argued with the Lord about not being able to speak well enough to lead God’s people. Dreams lost. Empty. Desolate on dried out ground.
But there are two things in the story I need to remember. In seasons when life feels desolate and you’ve lost the ability to dream, remember these. The story of the burning bush is more than just a Sunday School anecdote. There is powerful insight into the person of God that we can see and apply to our own Mt. Horeb experience.
First, God saw purpose in Moses. He sees purpose in you and He is wanting to kindle that flame again. Moses had lost any dreams he would have had of delivering his people from Eypgt. They were long gone. Lost in a desolate mountain called Horeb. God met Moses and began restoring and reminding him of those dreams. He’s wanting to do the same for you and me. God wants to breathe new dreams in us. To ignite, like the burning bush, hope and purpose again. To take the desolate hopelessness in our hearts and transform it into renewed purpose. I used to dream about speaking and preaching powerful messages of encouragement and truth to the Body of Christ. My vocal cords were taken. I’ve lost that dream… for now. But God is a redeemer and somehow, He will redeem the Horeb moments of our life. When we find ourselves living on dried out ground and our dreams gone, He is there. When we can’t see past today and dreaming about tomorrow has become impossible, He is there. Maybe not in a burning bush, but He is there, gently holding us under His wing and whispering new dreams into our hearts. Be still, my friend. Keep listening. Let the Lord embrace you and hold you until those dreams can be awakened inside your heart again.
Second, the mountain called desolation was holy ground. Get this. It’s powerful. Dried out desolate bleak and barren ground was holy. I don’t know about you, but when I think about holy ground, those are not the adjectives I would use. However, Moses was told to take off his sandals for it was holy ground.
Have you ever just walked through the grass barefoot simply because it felt good? I love to do this in the spring time when the barrenness of winter breaks and warmth starts taking over the earth again. The green grass under my feet. It’s therapeutic. I take off my shoes and enjoy the moment. God told Moses to do this same thing. Take off your shoes, Moses. Slip off your sandals and stay with me in this moment for a while because it is holy. I am going to use it grow you in ways you couldn’t ever imagine. Grow you even though the ground is dried up. Through the dried up rocky soil, I’m going to sprig life for something new. Something holy.
When we go to visit someone if we plan to stay awhile, we take off our shoes. We make ourselves at home with them and enjoy their company. If we don’t plan to stay with them very long, we don’t bother taking off our shoes. It’s too much work to get them back on! I imagine this is how it would have been with Moses. Slipping off his woven straw sandals and basking in the glory of the Lord and His holy ground. Sitting down and staying for a while in this place of dried up ground. I think many times, we are tempted to bare down and grit our teeth when hard times come. We lament and cry out “Why Lord??” We try to hurry up and get through it. When really, we need to kick off our shoes and be willing to spend time just hanging out in the glory of His presence. To stand squishing our toes in the dried out ground knowing the holiness of the moment comes in the growth God brings despite the dried up ground upon where we stand. In fact, the longer we stay there, the more God can grow in us during our time on the dried up mountian. If we rush through our visit of Mt Horeb, we are going to miss something. Something good. Something holy.
Somehow after everything is said and done, God will work this season of desolation together for good. If we allow Him to, He will make beauty from the ashes of our experiences. The hurt, the pain, the desolation, the hopelessness. They are not for loss. “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).” Somehow, when the dried out dust settles and time has taken what it needs to work in us, we will “receive a garland instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3).”