The sun was shining, the garden was producing and with childlike delight in the fruit of my labor, I was harvesting peas.
God had moved us out of our home state, a metro area, and into isolation. We were now far out in the country. At least it seemed so to me.
I had two toddlers, ages four and one. Somehow I managed to get them sleeping at the same time most afternoons so I could spend time out in the yard that summer.
I was feeling ‘on the outside’-not an unfamiliar feeling to me.
We had found a church, and I attended a weekly Bible study with several women. I enjoyed my time with them. But felt left out of their gatherings outside of our study times. I knew it was largely due to my lack of funds. Or even a vehicle at the time. But still…
Setting down my basket in the garden that day, I knelt by the portable cassette player I’d hauled out with me.
A song was playing and it was just for me in the moment.
My soul was comforted by the lyrics, “I’m accepted …by the One Who matters most…” (DeGarmo and Key)
My thoughts turned to Jesus. To Him being hated, rejected and isolated. My heart was moved, and I felt connected to Him. I knew in that moment that He understood me. And I knew He accepted me. A profound peace settled my soul. His presence was tangible that day. I know because I recall that moment often as if it were just a few days ago.
There is a certain sturdiness of soul when you don’t feel accepted by people, but know you are accepted by the God who controls the universe. You know what I mean?
My desire was really for more than acceptance. I wanted to be cherished. I longed to be valued. I’ve been prone to needing affirmation and validation from people, so it was a profound moment for me. To be free from that in the acceptance of Jesus.
Have you noticed in God’s stories that the barren places become the richest oasis? Have you seen that they are used for nourishment and growth and advancement for His Kingdom?
Look at Hannah who was longing for a baby. Was ridiculed by ‘the other woman’. She cried out to the Lord in her distress and He answered her by giving to her one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. Samuel.
And then there is Elizabeth. She too was at the end of child-bearing years and still childless. But God knew all along that she would be the one to give birth to John the Baptist whom Jesus would later say was the greatest man who ever lived. The forerunner of Christ was Elizabeth’s long-awaited son!
And then we see Jesus. “The Suffering Servant.” Who was despised and rejected by men, smitten by God, had no place to lay his head, was an offering ‘outside the camp’.
As followers of Jesus, we can look at our barren places as blessings. In our longing and pain, we are invited to identify with Christ. The suffering He asks us to endure has rich blessings attached. Not the least of which is our union with Him. Our very real friendship with Him is borne out of our longing for love. He beckoned me in my aloneness that day through a song.
Remember Paul says in Philippians 3:10,
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…
And Hebrews 13:12-14 says,
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
When we have eyes that behold eternity like the saints who have gone before us-like the hall-of-faith heroes in Hebrews 11 who were looking for another kingdom, then we can endure the hurts, the aloneness-all the barren places we find ourselves in here.
Barren places serve us toward seeking our satisfaction by looking higher. They motivate us to live for Heaven, and to land nowhere short of the heart of Jesus.
Jesus, the Light of the world who turns our darkness into light when we are united with Him.
If you would like to listen to the song: I’m Accepted