The desert a beautiful and deadly place, sandy, dry, hot, but still full of life, teaming with creatures who are able to survive, having adapted over the years to the conditions. I long to see a desert and cacti in their natural environment. I have never been to a desert only seen pictures, and these pictures show how different this environment is, rather than what I’m familiar with presently. (Air-conditioning :))
We all go through desert experiences, Jesus was in a desert tested and with this experience prepared for ministry. What desert are we going through that is testing and preparing us?
Mark 1:11-13 The Message (MSG)
12-13 At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
I have no familiarity with deserts in the natural sense, but in spiritual sense the parallels are very apparent and similar. In the dessert place there is a fear, or a question surfaces of survival, will I have enough to sustain me through the hardships, through the barren conditions of this sun baked place, that looks to not sustain life.
It can be a lonely place, and a location you don’t want to be alone in, and possible dangers, the inexperienced do not want to enter or believe you should enter such a desolate place.
That journey into the wilderness is where you encounter your true self, having to face up to your deepest fears and also your self-inflicted presumptions, which may not even be true and are only a fantasy of your own making and imagination. At times we do discover things that have been hidden and surface from the deepest recess, when we make time to be alone or find ourselves alone.
When we experience this lack, vulnerability, emptiness, we have to resist the need to fill the void with stuff and business, this alone time may be the needed ingredient to allow you to face some fears and be in a place of growth. Last week, to be in that place where you and I are teachable.
A sand storm in the desert can come unexpected, and we have to seek shelter. The storms of life are similar, do we seek shelter, or push through? The Lord was desiring you to take time in the shelter to bring us closer to God, to seek shelter under the protective wing of God, or in the cleft of a rock.
Adullam: a place of refuge 1Samual 22:1 –2 The Message (MSG)
The cave of Adullam for David was a place where he turned back to God. The wilderness experience we like David experience at times, is out of our control, it just happens not of our doing, but at times aided by our busy lives. This feeling of distress, disconnection, isolation, usually gets worse before it gets better.
This is when the truth surfaces, when placed in a situation sometimes not of our own making, an unexpected job loss, death of a loved one, sickness, a child is born or you know there is a need for a change.
This is when we discover what we actually need to sustain our life? If you were dropped into a desert right now, no preparation time given, you would soon discover, what you thought you needed it would fade into insignificance. The immediate need before you, of water, shelter for shade and from the sand storms, a light covering as you walked the sand dunes, the wind blasting the sand at your body drying your skin, the abrasive sand rubbing against you and getting into your clothing.
Alone in an empty space, not aware of our basic needs in the desert place. We at times don’t know our basic need, so lost in our wandering, looking but not knowing what we are looking for!
The desert brings out the worst and the best in us, how do we handle being alone, the loneliness, the unknown, the lack of companionship, that longing for belonging. To just be welcomed and be embraced, to be accepted by others and allowed to be ourselves. We are accepted by God, loved by God, and through all the desert experiences to remember God has not left you, you are not alone.
I stumbled across this quote in a book of Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out pg. 116. This is an advantage of working in a library.
“We do not have to deny or avoid our loneliness, our hostilities and illusions to the contrary: When we have the courage to let these realities come to our full attention, understanding them and confess them, then they can slowly be converted into solitude, hospitality and prayer. This does not imply that a mature spiritual life is a life in which our old lonely hostile self with all its illusions simply disappear and we live in complete serenity with a peaceful mind and pure heart. Just as our adulthood shows the marks of the struggle of our youth, so out solitude bears the signs of lonely hours, our care for others reflects at times angry feelings and out prayer sometimes reveals the memory and the presence of many illusions. Transformation in love, however, these painful signs become signs of hope, as the wounds of Jesus do for the doubting Thomas.”
In the wilderness God provided Manna, in those times of testing, God can give what we need, we receive something only God can provide. This is through reliance on God, not on people, as they are not able to know what your are being taken though by the Lord. In the wilderness the Israelites grumbled and complained looking for comfort or the old familiar, but this requires us going back to an old season, a time that is only a distant memory of the past that has past, causing illusion or nostalgia.
In the desert let us learn from the children of Israel!