My Desert Madness!

Empty Space by Ann Hamilton

Can God meet you in the wilderness? Is God out in the desert places? Does God even prepare a table in the wilderness?

Sure, maybe, I just never want to wait around long enough to find out.

“The Desert” for the the Christian used to mean a literal desert, like the desert where the ancient Hebrew people had to wander.  Today, “desert” has taken on a more figurative meaning. What does a “spiritual desert” mean to you? I know that there are different meanings and interpretations for every single person out there. Sometimes “a desert place” can mean a time period of waiting, other times a literal geographic place of unfamiliarity, even other times it can mean a feeling of being lost - having no idea where to go or how to survive.

I can relate to all of those scenarios. I feel like I’m in a desert now, but this time it’s different. It’s longer; it feels more intense; I have no direction, no support; I feel totally alone with no clue how to get out or how long it will last. Jesus did his wilderness thing for 40 days, mine has lasted 180 days (and counting)  [I’m not comparing myself to Jesus, just so we get that clear. I’m merely thinking out loud. And I know it’s nowhere compared to the 40 years the Hebrews did.].

It’s hard. I know God can meet me; He has before. In fact, I believe he’s with me now even as I sit and write, but I also know I’m not out of here yet. I’m not doing something right. I keep wandering. I keep on searching. I feel unfulfilled. I’m getting depressed, but I know that I can’t let that get the best of me. I have to keep my mind strong, stay thinking positively, keep on going, keep on keepin’ on. I am not resting well. I have no routine. I have no rhythm. I teeter back and forth between hope and despair. But each day I wake up; I count my blessings. I have no job. The bills keep mounting up. More money is going out than coming in. The stress is also mounting - it’s a silent killer...of everything. But we still have heat, we have some food, we have laughter, and we have our health. The Lord sustains us. I count my blessings, I go to bed, I wake up, I get my family off and ready for the day, I wander around a little bit throughout the day, I do the after-school thing ... wind down, go to bed, wake up and repeat all over again. That sound like a rhythm, but it sure doesn’t feel like one. Something about it all is very unsettling.

I hate this “desert place.” But, then again, I don’t. I know that sounds crazy, like it makes no sense. It’s a paradox, but that’s what I am talking about - this “desert” experience is making me crazy!!! I’m speaking like a mad fool - I know that, but does anyone else?

This Lenten season I feel my lost-ness like never before. What are the chances that the very blog I get to help curate at St.Luke's would be about the very thing that I am in the midst of myself? Maybe it’s more fitting that way...I don’t know. I wish I had some profound truth to share through this whole process, but all I have is my honesty. This is my story. Welcome to my present-day life.

Just before I started typing out this piece, I read some of my Lenten devotional from N.T Wright. In it was some scripture and a thought for today:

He then spoke to them all. “If any of you want to come after me,” he said, “you must say No to yourselves, and pick up your cross every day, and follow me. If you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me, you’ll save it. What good will it do you if you win the entire world, but lose or forfeit your own self? If you’re ashamed of me and my word, the son of man will be ashamed of you, when he comes in glory which belongs to him, and to his father, and to the holy angels.”
-Luke 9:23-26

I don’t know how anyone else reading this will take this, but to me, it’s a fitting word. In this season, my “desert” place, my place of “lost” and despair, I should not try taking the control of my life into my hands. I am reminded of the very thing that first attracted me to Christ in my first years of knowing him. I am reminded of my dream of being with Christ one day. I’m am reminded of the true wealth that is gained in losing everything. This scripture has been my daily bread, my manna-like sustenance, if you will. This holy word with me today is the tabernacle of the Lord that was with the Hebrews in their desert wanderings. Just incredible. I feel the Lord sitting with me at the table as I type. Wow.

So can the Lord prepare a table for you and meet you in the wilderness?  

All I know is that I haven’t wanted to wait any longer, and yet the Lord came to me anyway.
How great is the love of our Lord.

Peace be with you!

-Mike Belmares


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