What I’ve Learned In The Desert

by | Jun 16, 2015

I’ve spent some time in the desert. 

One August friends loaned us their home in Palm Desert. Daily temperatures were around 114 degrees. When I went looking for a tennis partner I was told no one played past 11:00am. Just breathing was a chore in that kind of heat. We drove up into the mountains nearby and as far as you could see the land was brittle, barren and forbidding. I think all we did that trip was sit in the pool.

I’ve spent time in gardens, too.

A few weeks ago, Caron and I went to a little town in north Florida and spent a day biking through some of the most beautiful landscape we’d seen in awhile.  Giant, moss-draped oaks lined the streets.

Deep shade kept us cool in the heat of the day. Everywhere you looked there were flowers and miles and miles of lush coastal marshes.  Just a few hours there and we felt refreshed and renewed. 

All relationships and leadership seem to flow on a continuum

between garden and desert experiences. 

It’s interesting to me that our spiritual story begins in a garden in Genesis 1… and our biological story begins in a garden-like womb. Everything we need to thrive and grow is there.  We are fully provided for.

But, look where we’re first introduced to the ministry of Jesus ––in the desert.  God’s Good News Tour doesn’t open on top of a scenic mountain or in a palatial garden.

It starts from a place of isolated emptiness. 

In the beginning of John’s gospel a voice called people to the desert.  The desert is a deeply evocative place in the scriptures, because we’ve been there, metaphorically, in our own lives.  In the Old Testament the desert speaks of leaving, losing, wandering, struggle and preparation. And it’s where people first hear the promise of a promise land… the promise of a messiah

Years ago, after decades of what felt to me like relentless sacrifice in loving and leading, I got increasingly resentful whenever I was forced into “desert time.”  I didn’t deserve to be there. I had worked so hard to get to the “promise land.”

I never said it, but I know I felt that after all I’d done,

I didn’t  deserve ‘no man’s land.’

Know what I’m talking about?

What is your desert of difficulty or temptation or hardship where you feel most discouraged? 

Out in the desert John the Baptist preached,  “Prepare the way for the Lord.  Make straight paths for him.”  

God seems to be saying: make a straight path for me to walk in the desert places of your life… let’s walk straight into it… and straight through it.  You don’t have to stay there, but let’s not miss there.

I’m writing today from the ‘outback’

of the greatest desert experience of my life.

It’s been a couple of years now. And,, as much as I initially agonized in it, over time, I’ve actually grown fond of much of it’s unique terrain and monastic qualities.  

Here’s how I think I got here:

  1.  I had to ‘get straight’ in my mind, that God had led me into this desert experience. I was fully responsible for what got me here and yet, it was God who brought me here. And though there have been many times of extreme loneliness, we know we are not alone.
  1.  I had to ‘get straight” in my mind that this path, while difficult beyond description, was going somewhere profoundly good-and it wasn’t to hell.  God promises that ALL things end up bringing us to where we began- home. And God’s home always has a garden.
  1. I had to ‘get straight’ in my mind that this path, wasn’t going to last forever…. even though I could see no other road ahead. There is a time and season for everything.  And there’s a reason time passes in seasons.God is always creating, redeeming and resurrecting. So this thing IS actually going somewhere. Somewhere really good.

Jesus came bringing good news.  

And a part of what makes it so good is that

it stands up to the heat of even the most difficult places.

Where is your desert?  

Where do you feel you don’t have enough?  Where do you feel hungry for approval?  What are you lacking? What’s always missing? Where is it you don’t deserve to be? What is it you don’t have enough of? Must you always have a next hill to climb, another mission impossible to accomplish?  What things are you using to ‘medicate’ yourself?

* We can get pretty desperate when we think we’re in a desert.*

Wherever that place is for you, God says let me walk with you THERE, because I’m not ashamed of it anymore than I am ashamed of you.  I’m good news to you in the desert, as well as the garden.  I love you. I’m with you…wherever you are.

…Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color.  

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain.

The people God has ransomed will come back on this road. They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,  Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

Isaiah 35 (Message)

This is what I’ve experienced in my current desert.  In the midst of all the pain and loss, a symphony of song and color have emerged that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

You can reach me at david@youlivetrue.com

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