Recently, I was asked to minister in the town of Hartley, Texas at Hartley Christian Fellowship. As people asked the question, Where is Hartley? I explained to them it was located about 78 miles north of Amarillo. Their response? That's the middle of nowhere!
As is custom, I asked the pastor if there was any specific need he wanted me to address as I ministered, he wrote me back with, "I pray for renewed passion and an openness and love for our changing community culturally. A return to our first love as followers of Christ."
Taking this to heart, I began to ask the Lord if there were any things He would have me specifically address in relation to what the pastor had written. All I could hear in my thoughts was the phrase 'in the middle of nowhere', I could not shake that thought - and knowing how the Lord operates in my mind, I prepared to receive a song about being stuck in the middle of nowhere.
The more I pondered that phrase, the more definitions I came up with as to what it means to be in the middle of nowhere. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase literally means far away from any towns and cities and where few people live. Hartley certainly fit that definition, but I knew the meaning would have deeper spiritual ramifications;so I kept meditating on the phrase...and a song was born. Following are some of the thoughts that emerged:
The middle of nowhere could mean being lost in the wilderness. Just as the children of Israel wandered around in a physical wilderness, their wilderness was also one of a spiritual nature. Although they did not always correlate the two, the spiritual was actually more important than the physical. The physical wilderness was provided to show the people of God their spiritual condition.
They had just spent the past 400 years in the wilderness of slavery to Egypt and now they found themselves free from that bondage. It did not take long for attitudes of gratitude to change to second-thoughts and grumbling against leadership. In the very midst of the wilderness of the Sinai, God Himself had led them by a cloud in the daylight and by a pillar of fire by night. He had parted the Red Sea. And on a more personal level for each family and individual, He provided food fresh each morning in the form of manna. Yet, they chose to see the wilderness rather than the love and presence and power of God being demonstrated in their midst!
How often do we gaze upon our circumstances, surmising we are in the wilderness - smack dab in the middle of nowhere - yet we neglect to see the love and presence and power of God being demonstrated in our life daily?
Being in the middle of nowhere can be as simple as feeling alone. In that respect, being in the middle of nowhere can mean feeling alone in the middle of a crowd. The middle of nowhere can be in the middle of millions of people in New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and feeling as if no one can even see you. The good news is that we cannot possibly ever be alone if we remind ourselves that the God we are in relationship with is anywhere we happen to be. Being alone with God is not a bad place to be. In fact, I - being an introvert aside - find being alone with God rather invigorating. To be with God in intimacy - Him seeing all of me and loving me anyway and me taking the time to gaze into His presence - is to recharge my batteries on every level. Jesus intentionally went into the middle of nowhere for this very reason: to be alone with His Father and to recharge his spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical batteries. In other words, being in the middle of nowhere can be a very good thing.
When we are willing to stand alone for our faith; whenever we are willing to speak Truth to those we love; whenever we risk loving through service; we face the risk of being misunderstood. Because of the nature of my own story - freedom from homosexual identity and now identifying as heterosexual - I often feel as if I live in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of being misunderstood. The simple fact of the matter is that if we pursue Jesus with the passion He pursued us, we will be misunderstood. Each of the apostles had to walk through the wilderness of being misunderstood. They preached love. The world heard hate. The world - thanks to the deception of the enemy - is walking in darkness apart from Christ. The most loving thing to tell someone is that they need a Savior because of their sin. No one wants to be told they are wrong about anything, yet that was one of the most loving things ever spoken to me. Dennis, you are in sin.
Just as Stephen, we may be misunderstood to the degree that our very life is threatened. Just as with the children of Israel who had the choice of seeing and experiencing God's love, presence, and power, Stephen chose to see from the Lord's point of view while in the middle of nowhere. While being stoned to death for preaching the Truth of Jesus, He chose to look into the heavenly places, but being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God". Acts 7:55-56 NASB
The stoning continued but so did the faith of Stephen. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"! Acts 7:59 NASB
When finding ourselves in the middle of nowhere, whether in a desert, in a crowd, of being stoned, we must recognize and realize that even there we are not alone. In fact could it be that finding one's self in the middle of nowhere is a good - and grand - thing? It all depends on the point of view, I suppose.
We can see a cloud of obscurity, or we can see a cloud that guides.
We can either see a fiery trial or we can see a fiery pillar of God's protection.
We can see a sea raging all around us with no way through or we can see a parting of that very sea.
We can see eking out a bare existence or we can see even the smallest morsel as manna from heaven.
We can either see emptiness or the opportunity to be filled.
We can see brokenness or the opportunity for being poured out.
We can either see a desert or we can see a chance to meet with our Maker.
We can see wounding or we can offer our hearts and hurts to the Healer.
We can see the middle of nowhere or we can see the love, presence, and power of our God.
Ultimately, the middle of nowhere is a good and grand place - because it is there that we meet the God Who meets all our needs!
Where can I go from Your presence?
Where can I go from Your grace?
How wounded and how broken must my heart be before