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October 5, 2017

The wilderness is a most decidedly unpleasant place to be. It can be dirty, difficult and painful as we journey through those areas God leads us to in order to remove our ‘self’ nature from us. Some of the places we journeyed through were scary, hard, cold and bitter. I cannot hide the truth from you for if you are serious about following God you will experience such trials first hand. If you have not gone this way with God, you may think that such experiences are nothing but painful. This, however, would not be the truth. In this blog I will relay how God gave us the sweetest of lessons in the rottenest of places.

In July of this year, after we finished our book and left our basement suite, God saw fit not to put us in a home right away but allowed us to be homeless again. We were surprised by this but were able to adjust to our new reality since we had been homeless for a long time before. Some of our belongings went into storage and we wandered about this city sleeping outside in a tent where we could. It was difficult but no more difficult than camping would be. We managed to find a sports area where we could clean up and have showers and we had a little money for food. All in all, it was manageable physically but spiritually it was quite the opposite. We struggled to understand why God had made our lives difficult again after being comfortable inside for 2 years. We managed to work this out but combined with our physical circumstances over time we began to feel pretty low.

In late July what money we had ran out and we did not know what to do. Wanting to escape the city we were trapped in and not wanting to lose all our belongings to the storage company we decided to take drastic action. Early one morning we got some of our belongings and drove out of town to a place where no people were. The only place we could find was an area of brush, trees and swamp where people dumped stuff they didn’t want anymore. The only redeeming quality of this place was that it was private and no one would disturb us. Leaving Wanda, Ida and Fanny along with Milo and Lennie-girl behind, I drove back with what little gas I had and got the rest of our belongings which I brought out to the dump.

We began to wait. We were not sure of what would happen but we did not want to be in the city anymore and weren’t sure where to turn. The sun rose higher and the beat down on us relentlessly. The heat of the day was only countered by the shade of the trees. Unfortunately, as the sun rose the shade became less and we all began to overheat. Soon our water was almost gone. It was a despairing time and our mood was getting darker by the moment. As Wanda sat in the air conditioned car, Fanny, Ida and myself explored the area. We had no food left and hadn’t eaten in some time, so when Fanny and Ida found some onions growing nearby we were thankful for the sustenance. Unfortunately, the onions didn’t taste very good and we could not eat them as is.

Fanny was not in the least disturbed by this and was determined to do something with the onions. With a little pan we had, a lighter, and a little sugar, Fanny and Ida took off to see what they could do. Wanda and I stayed with our belongings; overheating in the intense sun and heat. It was miserable and difficult. Both of our spirits were sinking into the mire of depression, like some of the garbage that had sunk into the sinking mud around us. As we sat in our misery, Ida came up to us with an aluminum plate with another plate on top. She uncovered the plate and there were the most wonderful smelling caramelized onions before us. Even though they smelled excellent the taste was beyond this world delicious. It tasted like something you would find in a five-star restaurant. The contrast between our surroundings and this delectable taste treat of caramelized onions was beyond description. It was a sweet and wonderful treat that God gave us in the midst of misery.

You may have heard in your life the phrase, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is a phrase that means to help you see the good in whatever situation you find yourself in. In our case it was not lemons, but onions. God had so orchestrated events in our lives to bring us to a point of desperation in that dump. In the wilderness He does this often. He knows that it is in our most desperate times, that often we make live changing decisions that will affect us for eternity. If you give up ‘self’ in these times you will gain more of Him and that is the sweetest gift of all. In our case, however, God was bringing about a change in our circumstances that would have a profound effect on our future. In the midst of the suffering, God wanted to let us know that He had not abandoned but was still with us. That whole day and incident opened up another chapter with God and others that we had not seen before, had it not been for “the carmelized onion day”.

The blessing and sweetness of the caramelized onions in that dumping ground was no accident and God worked with us to bring the blessing out. First of all, you need to know that these onions weren’t native to our area. Years earlier someone must have thrown out some onions which managed to take root and had grown on their own. Second we had to wander about to find the onions and recognize them for what they were. Third Fanny had to have the skill and materials to cook up these delectable treats which included building a small fire and sitting in the hot sun as the onions cooked. All of these things had to happen before we were able to eat the goodness God had for us.

In the wilderness you may be tempted to think that God will just bring you all the comfort and help you need with no participation from you. Don’t fall for that lie. The wilderness is meant to teach us to lean our entire being on Him through our trials. That means that we have to actively participate in our obedience to Him. We have to work with God to bring about the sweetness that He longs to give us, in the harsh desert places He will lead us through. By following Him in obedience, He can bring out the sweet truth and understanding of how He cares for His Bride. Jesus’ Bride is not ‘self’ willed and demanding but she is a co-laborer with Him. His intimacy with her is all about the shared experience of trial and difficulty where the Bride and Jesus come together to overcome. This is the sweetness that comes out of suffering. This is the joy of the Bride to share the secret delights of knowing Him in the darkest of valleys. That is the lesson of the caramelized onions.

We will not forget that difficult day in July. The heat, misery and suffering are not easy to forget but the pain is wiped away by the memory of the sweet caramelized onions. In that memory God reached out to us and said that He redeems the pain. He heals the broken heart. He has not left those that call on Him for their everything. This is the message of comfort I offer to you today. No matter where you are in the journey, or even if you have not begun, remember the lesson of the onions. He will bring sweetness out of the swamp, honey from the rock, just for you.