On a Horse with No Name
I am in the middle of a desert experience. Hold that. My wife and I have been watching a TV show called Monk about an obsessive compulsive police detective. He has a passion for details, especially things other people would consider minute. After someone made a statement like mine (“I am in the middle of a desert experience.”), Monk, who is the master of the tangential response said “There is no way you can know that. Only God can know when middle of an experience that hasn’t ended yet is.” Make me laugh. OK Mr. Monk, point taken. Fact remains that the reader knows what I’m talking about – I am in the middle of a desert experience.
While there were others, the epitome of desert experiences in the Bible was the one had by the entire Israelite nation as they fled Egypt. Despite the fact that the journey could have been decades shorter, God kept the Israelites in the desert because they were not ready for the land of promise. God needed to develop a thirst in them that could be developed no where else but by walking in the desert.
Think about this…what grows in the desert? What do you drink in the desert? What is there to use to make structures or clothes? Nothing. The desert produces absolutely nothing. It is a place of desolation, drought, and poverty. To sustain life, you have to turn the the Author and Giver of life, and that is exactly what God was teaching the Israelites. Before they could appreciate the promised land, they had to first appreciate God. His provision. His protection.
Basically, the desert will make you thirsty. And a entire generation had to learn the hard way (by dying in the desert), that God is the source of our thirst quenching. So they had to rely on a pillar of cloud and fire to lead them (nice GPS!), water to come from rocks, food to fall from the sky, shoes that wouldn’t wear out. Literally everything they needed had to come directly from the hand of God. Still took 40 years for their pride to be broken.
That’s the desert – source of poverty and thirst – and the place where we maybe most willing to see God.
At present, that is where I find myself. In a relational desert. For work I drive and hour. So I’m an outsider. I spend many hours each day in a room full of nice people, but there is not a sacred companion here. I’ve mainly been to my new church on Sundays, which as every church leader knows, is not the best day to build depth. Yes I have a few friends (an oasis) and a lot of relational potential, but it’s the desert. Loneliness is my thirst right now.
My suspicion is that is just what God wants. Thirst turned the Israelites to turn to God for a solution. The thirst I experience has caused me to depend on God in a very real way. To develop depth. To not just offer a formula of prayer, but to experience God in prayer. Literally feeling Him walk with me in the morning as I talk with Him. The desert can be a refreshing place if you know where to look.
Yet, I find that I’m still in the middle (yes, Mr. Monk, I heard you), learning to embrace the desert, and longing for what comes next. For Israel it was 40 years. Elijah was fed by ravens until the brook dried up. Jesus waited 30 years a carpenter’s son. The disciples waited without Jesus and without the Counselor for days in a room praying constantly.
Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like God is in a hurry. Isn’t he revolutionizing the world here? Does He have time to waste? Well, apparently it is not a waste. Seasons like this need to be embraced. Sometimes the best thing is the wait and be still and not do, do, do. The next challenge will be to maintain that perspective and balance when out of the desert.