The Truest Thing I Know Outside The Gate & What We’re Given

{By Tammy Hendricksmeyer}


I had pulled in for a break from a long car ride home that would stretch for hours and it was during that respite that I was finally able to articulate some coherent thoughts. For the first time in a long while, I could see straight and think clearly. It had been too long of a year.  I felt disjointed and dulled by fragile relationships. That is partly why I went to a Retreat and why I did not talk myself out of it this time. It came at a time when I was ready to mark some days on the calendar for self-care. The timing of it was nothing short of a God-send. I was both ready and weary as the quiet fellowship of others ministered to me while I was there.


It had begun to rain cold rivers down my window when I sent the harried text, “Whatya doing?” to my sister from my parked car under a pavilion. I had just left the retreat and my windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up, making it difficult to see the road. That’s when I found a Sonic like an oasis from a childish prayer. Under my temporary refuge, the pavilion provided cover from the rain that was now pounding on my back window.


After many months spent in a slump, it only took God a few days to miraculous pull me out. But not without seeing some things first. Not without learning some hard-earned lessons from the year which brought me to my knees in a way I had not known before.


At the Retreat, I talked about God and stories and what themes pierced my heart. All the while, I felt the blood returning to my pallor state of living. I had learned, by now, how community sharpens me and especially when you mix that community up with people who also have these strange Godly passions for the same things as you, such as writing or art {or fill-in-the-blank-passion}.


When dinner plates were half empty and someone passed me the butter over water glasses and I had slathered it on fresh, warm bread, my faith was made simple. In the conversations of how God was moving each of us, we were loving the neighbor at the end of our elbow in the chair next to us.  


But there were a string of hard-aches which still echoed in the hollow canyons of that one year.


Perhaps it is not always, ‘though it can be, but not always a devilish reason that we find ourselves outside the gates of something in our life. That at times, ‘though not always but it can be, God Himself who has something to do with it. I may have pointed to circumstances or people or my favorite person to blame, myself, but there was and is more to the story.


My whole church life conditioned me to never, ever be outside the gates. Period. But what I’ve found is that sometimes I have been driven to caves, by whatever reason, clinging to the Rock of my salvation, and little else. And I can not say that has been a bad thing.


Many times I wanted to run back in a full sprint and reverse my course, backtracking where the relationships began to tear and stop them in their tracks. But I was like the Israelites standing on the other side of the shores of a big sea, cut off from the land from which I just escaped.  So I went forward the best I could, just like they did, allowing God to lead me places, even to the wilderness. And that right there is partly what struck me.


Sometimes it is me, running like ol’ Elijah, looking for God in a cave. But other times, it is God leading me out, smack dab into the wilderness of isolation and terrible months {or years} of learning to trust Him.


Sometimes it is Him taking me through it, and for the life of me, I do not understand it at the time. I do not see how it is saving my life, or how He is strengthening me, or how Christ is revealed through the cracks of it. All I know, at the time, is survival. “Give me Manna. Give me living water. Give me a path home.” And yet, I find myself still there, longer than I would have planned to be there if I had a choice in the timing.


I did not go because I was a glutton for punishment. Nor did I go out, prancing or waltzing, as I whistled my way to some foreign place. No. I got the living breath knocked out of me in a sucker punch to the gut by this thing called, life.


In the past, I have felt trapped, up against the sea. I have had to wait on the shores of my situation for something to give, to part a path, before I could get through it. I had to trust and be led by a God who saves. And maybe, just maybe, that whole crazy exit was about God taking me somewhere. I only wished it happened once in a lifetime.


Because who would imagine Jesus being lead by the Spirit to go in the wilderness?


And at times, Shame had laughed in my face and knocked me down like the bully it was. And I may have hidden my naked and exposed soul behind some proverbial bush. But I kept an eye on Jesus whose sacrifice clothed me better than Saks Fifth Avenue.  


The truest thing I know outside the city gates, is Jesus. If nothing else, if nobody else, if nowhere else, I am clinging to the One who saves me. No matter where I go, no matter what I do,  I need Jesus. And I especially need His comfort and wisdom when deserted and alone.


I finally left Sonic that day as the rain abated to a drizzle and my sister called me.  She knew how the prior year had wrecked me and how much this Retreat meant to me. I don’t know if she had braced herself for the hour long talk, but she got an earful that day. The pain of broken relationships had served me well in my dependence on God. Even though Jesus operated along the road, beside the lake, in graveyards, at the well, sitting on mountainsides, and most often found outside the city gate, God knew.


He knew how much the finger needs the hand, and the wrist needs the arm, and the foot needs the nose, and the eyes need the lashes, and the hair needs the skin, and the stomach needs the heart, and the brain needs the skull, and Paul needed Timothy. 


If I were to look at the Bible, as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, I’d see a God who desires to commune with us and how we experience Him more fully in relationship with others, whether it be close or far away. Jesus took time to be alone to pray but then He returned to the ones God gave Him. This is why He brought me out of the wilderness, eventually, as He faithfully does. Because “in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another” and together we have the One who was given. Jesus was given both on the cross and while on earth, He was given others by those God gave Him.


Although we are diverse, we diligently keep the unity of the holy Spirit, because this is what binds us. And in the same way, Jesus had community and through Him alone, so do we.


 Jesus said, “I pray for them {His disciples}. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours.”  John 17:9



{The retreat was at this wonderful place that I highly recommend: Laity Lodge}


My PhotoTammy’s white-knuckled philosophy on a particular denominational doctrine fell apart shortly after her life did.  She’s learned inter-personal relationships can both wreck you and build you up. She is passionate about communities finding one another and is a renaissance woman who’s scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, scaled fortresses in Nuremburg, and viewed the Eiffel Tower safely from the ground. She is a poet at heart who sings corny jingles, practices faith outside of institutions, homeschools for now, throws her head back when laughing, talks her family into hair-brained photographs, and occasionally drives an old John Deere tractor in tim-buck-two. She’s a writer and is curator for outsidethecitygate but her personal journey is found on her blog, Facebook,  and Twitter.




7 Comments on “The Truest Thing I Know Outside The Gate & What We’re Given

  1. Oh how grateful I am that we don’t have to be in the wilderness alone. The great Comforter, and this Ragamuffin crew of sojourners that band together~ here online, in our every days, on our retreats: they are each part of the rescuing of our faith. Love this piece so very much, friend.

  2. Tammy,
    I am so grateful you were able to the retreat and that God has been leading you and providing friends to journey with you…although I don’t choose the wilderness on my own, I am, in retrospect, always grateful for how God’s love and presence becomes more real during those times…((hugs))

  3. In community where two or more are gathered in his name. Tammy, Jumping Tandem was like that for me – a place of community, a returning from the wilderness. It is a blessing to be around the table with fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Tammy, as hard as this was to read (as your distance and discomfort were felt clearly through your words) I had a big smile on my face at that end. Yes, it IS all about Jesus and being made into His likeness. And yes, He does sometimes lead us through hard, stripping times so we will find Him. Thank you for sharing this.

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: