When I walk through a lively city park, I see excited children splash in water fountains and hear families laughing together on restaurant patios, and inexplicable joy penetrates my heart. Recently, on a perfect Saturday evening, distracted by this joy, I failed to notice the grassy areas devoid of Frisbee players or blanket layers. That is, until I nearly tripped over the rope enclosing the grass. Eventually, I saw the sign stating, “Lawn Closed. The grass is growing.”
“Even green pastures need time to grow,” the Holy Spirit assuaged. Suddenly the last year of my life made sense.
The grass in the park required protection from trampling footsteps, a designated time for weed removal, fertilization and regrowth into something lush. Likewise, I needed a season to clean out the old, heal from past hurts and retrain my mind for a healthier future. Sometimes that meant establishing boundaries, asking others to observe from beyond the rope. Loneliness, frustration and resentment confronted me while others enjoyed the playgrounds, splashed in the water fountains and partook of gourmet meals. At times, the seemingly endless dead grass and miry mud overwhelmed my hope, causing me to fear I would remain a desolate wasteland rather than grow into a thriving garden.
In Isaiah 43:19, God says,
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
One year ago I did not perceive the “new thing” the Lord was doing in my life, but I sensed the shifting season. You may be sensing such a change (Amos 3:7) or feel called to something new and different; or you may find yourself between the old thing and the new. Either way, when God does a new thing, the following four principles prove certain.
We are called out of something.
In a matter of months, I found myself called out of a serious relationship, a centrally located apartment, and finally, my job. From a biblical perspective, the Israelites were called out of slavery in Egypt; for Ruth, widowhood; for John and James, a fishing career with their father. Whether it’s our own conjectures about how life is “supposed to look,” slavery, geographic confinement or familial expectations, we must first break free of the thing that holds us back before we can begin to contemplate the new thing — the Promised Land, Boaz or discipleship.
Time in the wilderness may be longer than anticipated.
Not eight weeks ago, I found myself asking God, “Where are all of these amazing things you’ve promised?” My spirit felt the answer: on the other side of this season. The Lord prompted me to Exodus to reread the narrative of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert and across the parted sea. This verse caught my attention:
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea (Exodus 13:17-18a).
Just days prior to this, I recalled myself saying, “I wish I could go back to my old life, so I could pour myself into work, compartmentalize my emotions and not have to feel this pain.”
Surely God knew what He was doing in leading me the long way around to the sea. Because if even six weeks ago I had confronted what I now face, I might have changed my mind and gone back to the job, the relationship — Egypt.
Opposition will come.
Now standing at the precipice of a “new thing,” the calling requires visionary perspective and fearlessness as a prerequisite. But the opposition is palpable.
The Lord reminded me of a biblical someone who accomplished a specific job despite opposition.
Nehemiah barely entered Jerusalem before Sanballat attacked his character and tried ruining Nehemiah’s credibility among leadership, fueling lies that Nehemiah planned to revolt. Undeterred in his mission, Nehemiah did not engage the manipulation. He confidently refuted the allegations while continuing his work. Nehemiah didn’t pray that his enemies would be removed; he prayed that his hand would be strengthened despite enemy presence.
God equipped Nehemiah to be a source of strength for those working under his leadership. Nehemiah encouraged the workers to rebuild diligently with one hand while keeping a weapon in the other. Should attack come, Nehemiah had a ready-made army, simultaneously rebuilding the wall in a record-breaking 52 days … and ultimately paving the way for the revival of a city.
He makes streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 doesn’t end with a question mark. It ends with a promise:
… I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Your grass will grow green again. I pray that He strengthens your hand as you press on to greener pastures.