A Wilderness Musing
At our team retreat, our speaker talked about the wilderness about the wilderness as a place of desolation and despair where God meets us with his word. It is also a place of safety from our self centered lives. My Prince Charming found ourselves discussing the wilderness that next afternoon. Where did we see ourselves at this time? I didn’t really see myself as being in the wilderness but I want to be in a place where I can hear God’s voice clearly. From past experience, I knew that the wilderness is a difficult place to be but one where God is.
That same afternoon I was read a chapter on emptiness in Ruth Barton’s book, Silence and Solitude. She talks about the wilderness being an emptiness where we are ready to meet God. She says, “Elijah’s wilderness experience is a powerful metaphor for the vast emptiness all of us must walk through on the way to encounter with God.” (loc 784) It is in the place of silence and solitude that I can come to the end of myself by clearing out all the distractions and sin that is getting in the way of me seeing God. She talks about how Elijah had to go through the desert to get to Mt. Horeb and his encounter with God. In the same way, I might have to go through the desert of health issues, relationship issues, or even work issues. Ruth quotes Dan Allendar from his book The Healing Path as saying,
“Our spiritual journey must lead through the desert or else our healing will be a product of our own will and wisdom. It is in the silence of the desert that we hear our dependence on noise. It is in the poverty of the desert that we see clearly our attachments to the trinkets and baubles we cling to for security and pleasure. The desert shatters the soul’s arrogance and leaves body and soul crying out in thirst and hunger. In the desert, we trust God or die.” (loc 788)
Elijah had a choice-stay by the river and stay afraid of Jezebel or follow God’s leading into the wilderness. I am learning that I can choose to walk into the emptiness as Elijah did. I can see that I am too full of me whether it be worries, my own agenda, or even good things like my work and family. When I am too full of me, there is no room for God. I may not be in crisis, but I am always in need of God. I am always in need of the Master Healer who takes out the ugliness and pride and replace it with Himself. It is then that I am ready to hear the word of the Lord.
Sometimes God leads us into the wilderness to prepare us for what is next. It is not our choice. We would have preferred the scenic route. For the Israelites, God led them by the way of the wilderness because they needed time to grow in their faith and dependence on Him. (Ex 13:18) Their lessons took 40 years. For Elijah and Jesus, they were in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. For Elijah, God was renewing Elijah’s call. For Jesus, he was preparing to start his ministry. Whether God leads me into the wilderness with a push or a gentle nudge, I want to be ready-ready to be emptied of me, ready to hear the word of the Lord, but most of all, ready to just spend time in His presence.
Where are you right now? Is God calling you to some time in the wilderness? Is it a push or gentle nudge? The wilderness is a hard place to be, but the other side is the place God is calling you.
Dear God, I am not sure why the wilderness and even why right now. Show me your next steps. What needs to be emptied? What areas do I need to confront? May I hear your word clearly. Amen