“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness…”
There is a question that keeps rising up in this journey outside the walls, could it really be God that has led me to this place? Those times when others sow seeds of doubt and questions, those times when the yearning for what went before hits hard, those times when you hit the darkness and rebound spiralling out of all control, those times when loneliness kicks in, could God really still be my guide through this time of wilderness? I have fought, and continue to experience, many of these thoughts, but I am learning slowly at times that the place where I am is not a place to fear or run away from or a place of the absence of God, it is in-fact a place to experience and embrace. A place of richness and growth. A place like no other that I have ever experienced in the thousands of meetings, conferences, services I have attended and taken part in. This goes so much deeper. Yes it can be more painful, yes it is an experience at times of total marginalisation and misunderstanding, yes everything inside me at times wants to return to what is the known, but the wilderness takes on a whole new persona once it is embraced. The wilderness can actually become your friend. Not a place to escape from to get back to the hub of the city, but a place to move out from and then return to. The hub of connectivity, instead of the hiding place away from everything. His call to ‘come away with me’ can become the lifestyle and norm rather than rare venture. There are many books and records of characters known as the Desert Fathers but maybe God is raising up a new generation of desert dwellers. Maybe we are the desert children resting and walking in the mantle that many have worn, the mantle of the Prince of Peace. Embracers of the wilderness and desert, not as a place to fear but a place to connect with God. Not as a place to run away from people but a place where embrace is more coated with the love of the Father. Not a place of death and barrenness but a place teeming with possibilities of life.
Bethel Was In The Desert (and still is?)
Jacob was banished to the wilderness and desert places. He was banished and rejected and broken and lost… but never out of the site of God. It was in this place that Jacob laid down a stone as a pillow. Sounds a bit uncomfortable to me, but there was nothing else, no home comforts. All stripped away, and yet not everything gone. God!!! It was here in the desert that Jacob saw the angelic host ascending and descending. He heard God speaking to him. The seed of the destiny of a Nation was placed within this broken vessel. A new name and purpose were given to him. When he woke up he looked around at the wilderness with new eyes, ‘this is none other than the house of God and I didn’t realise it- Bethel.’ The sand that surrounded him was imprinted with the D.N.A. of God. The air itself was infused with the breath of God. The atmosphere electric with the presence of God. The place of running away had become the place of running into. The place of emptiness had become the place of overflowing and abundance. Nothing was now everything. This is why the wilderness is my friend, it is so full of heavenly D.N.A. Bethel is everywhere, it is just sometimes we do not recognise it. That is just the account of Jacob, what about Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, John, all finding more than the bargained for in the place we call desert. Burning bushes, horses and chariots of heaven, visions of heaven being open, glory and light. These places are not without their challenges and darkness, let’s not pretend, but the rewards far outway the challenges. It just takes waking up and smelling something greater than the coffee, the very presence of God.
A Desert Dweller.
“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.” Ezekiel 34:25.
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.” Isaiah 35:1.
I am learning to embrace the desert. I am learning that the wilderness is my friend. I am learning that it is a place to return to and not escape from. For David it became a place of re connection at Adullum’;s Cave, for me too it has become a place of re-connection. In solitude and marginalisation I have discovered others who will fight for each other and not pull each other down. Relationships not based on theology or style of worship or expression or belonging to a church group, but relationship based on brokenness and reality and hunger and love and adventure and fresh discovery. Finding each other in the lostness. Elijah thought he was on his own but there were hundreds like him. That is true for us today as well. I am happy to be a desert dweller. That does not mean to never touch people, ask John the Baptist! This place is full of life in abundance. The desert has taught me how to really love people. This sand is so full of the D.N.A. of God.