Not long ago, I felt God telling me to "go back" and as I considered to where, specifically, it was He wanted me to go back, I came up with several possibilities. First, I considered that He wanted me to go back to Arkansas where I was raised and just spend time with my parents. "God, I'll need a few plane tickets for the fam and time off work if you'd like for me to return to my roots," I told Him in playful prayer, excited over the possibility of seeing my family again. Well, after some more thought (and no plane tickets or time off) I decided that perhaps He wanted me to go back to the church where I was led to the Cross, which was a small Baptist church in Cave City, Arkansas - First Missionary Baptist Church I believe it was called. It turned out that wasn't what He had in mind either, so finally, it dawned on me that my actual walk, a genuine and reciprocal walk, with Him began in Bakersfield, California. Fortunately, that was a much more doable trip to coordinate since we're only a few hours south of there. So, we got packed and headed north, and it was there that God spoke life and hope into a future I had been beginning to question. All I had to do was go back.
If you've read any of my posts, you've probably picked up on a recurrent them of mine, which is to move forward and never look back. In one post I even cited the passage of Scripture where Lot's wife was turned to a pillar of salt...because she looked back. You can understand my hesitation then when I felt God prompting me to look at or do anything that involved "going back." I didn't want to look back in time, nor did I want to travel back in time if it meant I was going to become a pillar of the latest seasoning. Fortunately, God didn't give up. He continued telling me to go back, and over the course of several weeks, my concerns gave way to confident trust and hopeful expectation of what it all meant. So, although I've always encouraged my readers to keep eyes fixed upward and forward, sometimes a deeper understanding of life can come only after going back in time to revisit where certain things all started. I don't know what your "certain thing" or life event is, but my own time travel seemed to crash land into an unexpected tree of truth and awakening this past weekend.
While my first trip "back" was a literal drive to Bakersfield, California, God continued to lead me emotionally, spiritually, and mentally further back than even middle California desert land. He led me back to where and how I was first introduced to Christ. Ironically, it is my husband who has been on a men's retreat with our church, and as I waved goodbye to him from the parking lot Friday afternoon, I smiled in sweet anticipation of what God would do in his spirit while he was away. I envisioned spiritual breakthroughs and miraculous prayer promises delivered as a result of his obedience to go amidst the rebellion of his flesh. However, nothing I imagined prepared me for what turned out to be my own personal prayer retreat with God while he was away. It turns out that Jesus needed to get me alone as well, not only to humble me through the reminder of my propensity towards sin, but also to refresh my soul with His cleansing waters of forgiveness and grace. I needed first, however, the refresher course in humility, because like many others in ministry I can easily forget that being called into it doesn't mean I'm removed from temptation, faulty thinking, and sin in general. On the contrary, it means I'm equally susceptible, but simply called to a higher level of accountability when I stumble. Likewise, if you've been called to lead in ministry, you have a higher calling of accountability to the King, so be careful as you tend to His other children, for when you stumble they will be watching. Make sure your heart and spirit is right with Jesus before you try to help someone else get right in their own spirit and heart. You can't be an effective witness for Christ when you're not living for Him behind closed doors. The walls will eventually come crashing down around you so make sure you do what's right under your own roof before you try to clean out the garbage under someone else's roof. We all experience lessons in humility from time to time and my own most recent course came through the journey with God in going back, but His grace also well in tact, I swam in warm and cleansing waters of repentance, mercy, and love.
What I learned throughout the weekend of fervent prayer is this - as dangerous as going back through the doors of your past can be, there are times when it's absolutely necessary when trying to understand matters of the heart. I was given sweet and precious time over the weekend, not only with Jesus as I prayed, but also through the reconciliation of unforgotten love in my heart to the truth of today. In going back, I was able to face some hard realities, embrace the truth of love everlasting, and move gracefully forward in the powerful knowledge that above all things and over all people, I love God most. At one point Saturday night, I literally lay face down on the floor with tears in my eyes, begging God to give me the strength I needed to do His will. He did. There comes a point in all of our lives when we have to go back before we can go forward, but just know that if God is drawing your heart back to another time and place, it doesn't mean you're meant to stay; it just means you need the reconciliation of yesterday to today. Don't be afraid to "go back" as I've always been. If God leads you to it, He will bring you through it, Hand in hand. Take the chance, seek forgiveness and closure, and make peace with what once was so you can fully appreciate what now is. With God by your side and as your guide, you're secure in the journey of going back. Trust Him with the outcome, for He is with you always.
"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." - Genesis 28:15