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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Wilderness Vistas

By Jeromy Deibler with Scott Harrup
Nov. 21, 2010

If you’ve gone to an FFH concert this past year, you’ve probably heard me talk about the wilderness. I’ve been urging people to follow God into the unknown, telling them not to be afraid to go wherever Yahweh leads them, even if it seems extreme. I’ve been imploring people to go “away” with God, to be still, to be quiet, to be “different.”

I’ve been telling people how great the wilderness is because Jesus is there and He is uniquely close to us when we go there with Him. But if that’s going to be my message, then I’ve got to be that guy — the traveler, the sojourner, the “John the Baptist” willing to live in the wilderness.

A little backstory …

Jennifer and I married in 1995. I was 21, Jennifer was 23, and for the first 10 years of our marriage we gave our time and attention and emotional energy to FFH.

I don’t say that regretfully. God was blessing and leading, people were responding positively to the messages in our music, and we always knew that this journey was not about album sales but changed lives. And yet, it was a challenging season. We both sensed when it was drawing to a close and that to persist in that chapter of life would be a mistake.

The wake-up call came right around our 10-year anniversary. By then, our son, Hutch, was a toddler. FFH had developed so much momentum that it pulled us all with it, forcing our marriage and family structure into shapes we realized needed to change. In 2005 we began looking for God’s next direction for our lives. We didn’t know if the band was going to be a part of what we did; we didn’t know if we were completely quitting; but we figured it would probably be wise to take a sabbatical to sort it all out.

So this is what it feels like to walk the wilderness
This is what it feels like to come undone

This is what it feels like to lose my confidence
Unsure of anything or anyone1

Where life had previously felt like an ever-accelerating journey from point A to point B, it began to spiral. Different months found us looking in different directions and moving at different paces.

The day after FFH played its last concert, Jennifer and I were packing for Cape Town, South Africa. We went to South Africa in October 2006 to minister in a simple and personal manner for the next six months in a small church. No high-speed Internet, no landline telephone, no television, no heating or air conditioning, no travel schedule.

We came back home convinced we had left our traveling days with the band behind. But we still didn’t know what God had for us next. So we waited ... and waited. During the waiting we made two discoveries that propelled us simultaneously to opposite ends of our emotional spectrum. It was pure joy to learn we were expecting Sadie-Claire. We fought despair when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

So this is what it feels like to walk the desert sand

This is what it feels like to hear my name
To be scared to death ’cause I’m all alone
But feel love and peace just the same

Just a few years ago, there was no effective treatment for MS. There was no way for doctors to effectively stop the progression of the disease and the scarring it causes in the brain and the spinal cord. Since the 1990s, several new drugs have been made available and have brought MS therapy a long way. But nothing yet has been discovered that can stop the disease; the best treatments still can only delay the process.

When I was diagnosed, I learned that even with treatment I could be in a wheelchair before I’m 50. I was offered a clinical trial for a chemo-based therapy. I’ve had the treatment twice, and so far it’s been effective. I still live with mild symptoms and take a handful of pills in the morning, but I’m living a basically normal life at this point.

Sadie-Claire’s arrival was balm for our pain. Jennifer and I are in awe of our kids. Hutch is 7, and he’s got his mama’s sweet disposition. Sadie-Claire is 3 this month. I never imagined what having a daughter would be like. I’m learning how to navigate the differences between the two of them, and I’m enjoying every day of that journey.

Our sabbatical concluded with my health stabilized and our family structure both expanded and settled. We felt God made it clear it was time to connect FFH with new ministry venues. We moved to Franklin, Tenn., became active in a growing church, and carefully balanced our tour dates and locations with our ability to remain connected as a family. But in the midst of this new stability, another trial waited for us.

After settling into our home in Franklin, we noticed a wet spot in our ceiling near our fireplace whenever it rained. By this summer, we needed extensive repairs on the roof and inside the house as well.

But as the work began, tests revealed stachybotrys, a mold associated with severe health risks. The mold had infiltrated our walls and been carried by our air conditioning throughout the house. We were at risk of losing everything we owned.

So this is what it feels like to just fall apart

To be totally ungluedFind out that if I accept my brokenness
I get more of me, I get all of You

We had to move out of our house. Before moving into our current apartment, we lived for most of the summer with Jennifer’s family on their farm in Missouri. It was crowded and stressful, but we cherish the renewed bonds we established. We were also able to be with Jennifer’s dad as he battled poor health.

It’s an open question still as to when or if we’ll be able to move back into our home. We have more questions than we do answers at this point, but we know God is good, and that’s the umbrella that’s keeping us sane.

Jennifer and I are learning to be thankful in every situation. “Do not be anxious about anything,” the apostle Paul wrote, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV). Paul connected thanksgiving in life’s wilderness moments with our continuing privilege of seeking God’s provision and blessing.

I think of those people who took part in that first Thanksgiving meal, and there were so many hardships they were facing, just like all of us are. When we gather together, we have joy, and we have sorrow. They’re coexistent.

Earlier in my relationship with God, it felt like joy and sorrow were mutually exclusive. You either were joyful, or you were in mourning. To mix the two together would be like oil and water. But it’s not that way. In all things, in all situations, we can have joy. “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

There’s something to be thankful for, even in our suffering. I believe God has as much for us to learn from and grow through in the storms, if not more, than He does in the open spaces.

In the storms, God’s promise is His presence. That may sound trite when you’re not going through a struggle. But when you are struggling through the depths, and then you do feel God’s special presence in a way that you can’t understand, you suddenly discover that all the pain and the questions are worth it.

So this is what it feels like to just walk away
From everything I thought kept me safe
To depend just on You for every meal
And find that it’s better this way

This may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
’Cause I have never felt You as close to me
As I do right now
So this is what it feels like to be led

1. Jeromy Deibler, “What It Feels Like,” from the FFH album Wide Open Spaces, 2010, Provident.

JEROMY DEIBLER is the lead singer for FFH ( SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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