The wilderness is a most unpleasant place to be. It can be dirty, difficult, and painful as we journey with God and He removes our ‘self’ nature. Some places we journeyed through were scary, hard, cold and bitter. We cannot hide the truth for if we follow God into the wilderness these are the trials we patiently endure. The wilderness, however, is not all painful. We can find the sweetest of lessons in the rottenest of places.
In July 2017, after we finished our book and left our basement suite. God didn’t open a door for a home, which led to our family being homeless again. This was a surprise, but we adjusted to the new reality. Some of our belongings went into storage while we wandered about Kingston; sleeping outside in a tent at various locations. This was difficult but no more problematic than camping would be. We found a sports area with showers and we had a little money for food. Physically, we managed but emotionally we were a mess. We struggled to understand why God made our lives difficult again after the comfort of being inside for 2 years.
In late July our money disappeared, and we were despairing. Wanting to escape Kingston, yet not wanting to lose all our belongings to the storage company, we took drastic action. Early one morning we retrieved our goods and drove out of town to an uninhabited location. The only spot available was an area of brush, trees and swamp where people dumped their junk. The only redeeming quality of this place was the privacy; free from staring eyes. One of the worst parts of being homeless is how people stare at you. We hated that. I left behind Wanda, Ida and Fanny along with Milo and Lennie-girl, to drive back and retrieve the rest of our belongings.
The waiting began. Kingston was a dead end. After 2 years we had enough and wanted to leave but saw no lead from God. We were stuck. The sun rose higher with relentless fury. Only a little shade from the trees countered the fierce heat. The shade lessened and everyone roasted. Our water was soon depleted. As the day brightened, our mood grew darker. Wanda sat in the air-conditioned car, while Fanny, Ida and myself explored around. We had no food and eating became a luxury. Then Fanny and Ida found some onions growing nearby. The onions didn’t taste very good though and eating them raw was not possible.
Undisturbed by this Fanny determined to do something with the onions. With a little pan, a lighter, and some sugar, Fanny and Ida took off to experiment. Wanda and I stayed with our belongings and baked under the intense sun. Our spirits were sinking into the mire of depression, like the garbage sunk into the surrounding mud. 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 we saw the most wonderful smelling caramelized onions. The smell was excellent, but the taste was beyond description. This was a dish you would find in a five-star restaurant. The juxtaposition between our surroundings and the delectable treat of caramelized onions blew our minds.
This was a sweet and wonderful treat God gave us amid the misery.
You may have heard in your life the phrase, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. In our case it was not lemons, but onions. God so orchestrated events to bring us to a point of desperation in that dump. A typical wilderness experience. He knows that it is in those desperate hours when we make live changing decisions. These are the moments He is calling us to give up ‘self’ and gain more of Him; and He is the sweetest gift of all. In our case, however, God was also bringing about a change in our circumstances that would have a profound effect on our future. In the suffering, God let us know that He was still with us. That whole day opened up a new chapter with God and others; the fruit of which you are reading now.
All this would not have been possible except for “the caramelized onion day”.
The blessing and sweetness of the caramelized onions was no accident. God worked through several events to bring out His blessing.
• First, these onions weren’t native to our area. Some discarded onions must have taken root.
• Second, only when we explored did we find the onions and recognize they were edible.
• Third, Fanny needed the ingenuity and materials to cook these delectable treats.
• Fourth, Fanny also required patient endurance to build a fire and sit in the sun as the onions cooked.
These things worked together before we could eat the goodness God had prepared in advance. Romans 8:28
In the wilderness there is temptation to think God will just bring the comfort and help we need with no participation from us. Don’t be deceived. The wilderness teaches us to lean our entire being on Him through our trials. This means we actively watch for His lead and obey promptly. We work with God to bring about the sweetness that He longs to give us. Jesus’ Bride is not ‘self’ willed and demanding but a co-laborer with Him. His intimacy with her is about the intricate dance of trial and difficulty where the Bride and Jesus overcome together. This is the sweetness that comes from suffering.
The joy of the Bride is to know Him in the darkest of valleys. This is the primary lesson of the caramelized onions.
The heat, misery and suffering of that July day are difficult to forget but God wiped away the pain through those sweet caramelized onions. God reached out and showed that He redeems the pain. He heals the broken heart. He does not leave those that lean on Him for their everything. This is the message of comfort we offer to you today. No matter where you are in the journey, or even if you have not begun, He is with you.
Homer and Wanda