Here we go,” I thought to myself as I drove down the early morning highway towards my less-than-fulfilling job. “Lord, what are you doing?”
I didn’t even want to turn on the radio; I knew I had to talk to God, but I didn’t know what to say. Hadn’t I said everything I could? On the fringe of the white noise, I noticed the presence of loneliness. How could I not?
I was struck with the realization that I really didn’t have any friends left. My sin, my temper, and my bad decisions had left a mess behind me. In the midst of it all, I couldn’t see what was happening. I thought about my two closest friends; friends who had done their best to push me toward God. Oh, they tried. But I had been so bitter toward God and what He seemed to be doing.
Why wasn’t He answering my requests? How could He let things be so painful? I wanted what was good, didn’t I? I wanted restoration, I wanted peace, I wanted things to be good again! But God hadn’t done what I thought He was going to do. So, instead of surrendering to His plan, I made my own.
My Way or the Highway
If He wasn’t going to do anything, I would. And I would do it my way. I stomped my feet and threw a temper like a spoiled child. If I couldn’t have things the way I wanted it, I would do whatever it meant to have control. I was purposefully hurtful to those I cared most about; it left a lot of people bloody, running for cover. When the smoke cleared, I was left with red hands and tear-filled eyes. What had I just done? Who had I become? What was I going to do now?
Now, a few months and miles removed, I could see exactly what had led me to where I was. I had demanded so much from God, and in turn, demanded so much from the people around me. No wonder there was such a mess.
I cried out of shame and hurt. I couldn’t fix this. I realized I was completely by myself. I sensed God was moving, but I couldn’t imagine how. And I hated it. It seemed as if I had lost everything.
What could God possibly have for me in a place I felt so alone, with only Him to be alone with? I missed my friends, I wanted things to be fixed. I wanted to make things right. How was that ever going to happen? But it took just a moment and there it was- a whispered hush that I sometimes hear in my soul.
It was the idea of being brought aside.
I shook my head; yep, I was certainly in an aside-time right now. Completely aside. My initial response was one of defeat; I had caused this, and now look where I was.
“This hurts,” I prayed. “Lord, what can you do with me here? What are You waiting for?”
And then my mind recalled so many stories, so many pictures in the Bible that I suddenly realized were very relevant. All throughout scripture, God takes those He loves aside, often teaching them, and I started to wonder what He wanted me to learn.
Of course there’s the popular—and comforting—picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, taking a little white lamb across His shoulders, carrying it the rest of the way home. It’s a glowing picture; I can almost see the lamb sigh with serene contentedness, fluffy and clean and special. After all, not every lamb gets to ride on the shepherds’ shoulders. It brings peace, the idea that everything will be taken care of and everything will be ok. The grass is always green, the wool is always white, His eyes are always bright blue, creased with a small smile. Everything in this picture is good. Everything will be ok.
But there are other aside-times. Times that aren’t so comforting.
Not the First Aside-Time
Elijah was taken aside. Actually, he was chased aside by a murdering queen who had shed the blood of countless others. And there was Elijah, on the run, after doing the right thing, like God had asked him to do. He was taken aside only to be seemingly left alone, exhausted, scared out of his mind, and questioning whether life was worth living anymore.
Joseph was taken aside, despised by the ones who were supposed to love him. Taken to prison, after being wrongly accused, and left alone for years.
Moses was taken aside after his own temper forced him to leave the only home he ever knew and all of the people he ever loved. He was truly a stranger, an exile, chased away by shame and the fear of being found out.
Jacob was taken aside over and over again. He was constantly trying to stay one step ahead of all of the schemes and lies and tricks he had woven, but God was already there. Jacob actually had to be wrestled to the ground before he paid any real attention to what God was trying to do.
Peter was aside for what was probably the longest three days in human history; he had blatantly betrayed the person who had offered him everything. Then he saw Jesus, and watched Him get murdered. That was an aside-time.
Sometimes He carries us aside. Sometimes He brings us aside and makes us be still. Sometimes He meets us after we’ve been brought aside by our own mistakes. Sometimes He wrestles us to exhaustion.
In all of these aside times, there’s a deeply personal and intimate reason. If He didn’t want our attention—if He didn’t love us and want us to know Him—why would He go through the hassle?
The aside-times are hard; they can be bloody, exhausting, confusing, and almost always too vulnerable. But His heart is seen in these aside-times—if we can slow down long enough to see past our complaints, our pain, even our despair and fear and look to Him.
He takes us aside to make us beautiful.
He takes us aside so we can know Him.
I breathed out a long, heavy sigh. I was alone; God was taking me aside.
“Okay, Lord,” I prayed. “This is where I am, and I’m all here. Do what You’ve got to do.”