Monday, August 06, 2012

Making Sense of the Desert Places

Perhaps you’re like me and received Jesus as a child, or maybe it was just a few years ago. Regardless, you remember the moment, maybe it was over the course of weeks or months, but you remember the joy, the butterflies as the Holy Spirit took up residence in your heart and made you a new creation. Everything was new and you hungered for God and His Word like no craving you’ve ever known. As Thumper from Bambi would say, you were twitterpated! And then life kept moving forward, and for one reason or another, the spark faded a bit. You watched the flame dwindle and despite your best efforts and desires, you couldn’t get it roaring again. Fast forward in time and a really hard life transition was upon you. Once again, you found yourself clinging to Jesus with white knuckle grip. He wooed you to Himself, showing you the emptiness of all the world has to offer , your desperate need for Him, and you were head over heals yet again.
I could go on and on, couldn’t I? I mean I really don’t think I’ve ever met another Christian who hasn’t described these waves of closeness and distance when they talk about their walk, have you? So what can we make of these peaks and valleys, of these dry desert places and abundant gardens? What purposes is God working in this pattern, a pattern the saints have walked for all of history? First let me say that I am writing these words from a desert place. With parched lips and a growling tummy, I’m processing these questions with you. I am begging God to give me insight. After all, if you’re like me, it can bury you further in discouragement to hear from someone who only USED to be where you are. Fear creeps in that we may never get out of here, that we may never know the taste again of a deep and vibrant walk. I think the following passage explains our struggle well,
Romans 7:15-25-
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
It seems like a pretty hopeless picture if we stop reading before the last sentence… but then there IS that last sentence and in it we find our answer! So who will rescue us from this body of death? Jesus! Yes, the Sunday school answer. But maybe we over complicate things in our minds so that we can’t see the simple answer. Because of Jesus, we are new creatures, the old has gone and the new has come. I think the thought process that keeps us down is the false belief that because we are new creations, we should be perfect, that if we don’t have that blissful, awe inspiring quiet time every day that we have failed and can never really be good enough so why try. We wonder what’s wrong with us. Surely everyone else is having these said quiet times and we must be missing something profound. Oh how Satan would love for us to wallow defeated in this vicious cycle. But maybe, just maybe, these dry places, while never meant to be places we stay and linger comfortably, do have a good purpose. When you think about the picture of a desert and someone staggering to find the end of it, what’s the one thing on their mind? Water! And how good does the water taste when they finally find it? REALLY good! So perhaps, just as trials serve the purpose of showing us our deep need for Jesus and of pushing us to stop seeking things that will never satisfy, dry spells can serve the same purpose. Being hungry for Him, thirsty for His presence means that eating and drinking will be all the sweeter.
So what if, as the Romans passage explains, though the thirst and the hunger and the desire is there, we can’t seem to pick up our feet to walk in the direction of the water (FYI, this feels like me at the moment)? I’m drawn back to the answer in that last sentence of the passage, “through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Am I understanding this correctly? Jesus is going to help me pick up my feet and walk towards the water? Maybe my prayer needs to be even simpler, “Father, help me to lift up my feet and walk to your Word, to open my mouth to pray.” And maybe those staggering, baby steps need to be small enough that I can take them on an empty tank. One verse a day could grow into one chapter a day and praying every time I use the bathroom could grow into prayer without ceasing… but only by His strength. And perhaps the lush gardens are fewer and further between than the desert places by design. As we crave towards more intimacy with the Lord, as we stagger and sway in weakness towards the only One who can quench our thirst we are also staggering towards the ultimate lush garden that we’ll never have to leave, heaven. We have the promise of such sweet communion with our God, it will make those first butterflies seem like dusty moths in comparison!
So let’s link arms, sisters, when we find ourselves in these uncomfortable desert places, and spur one another on towards the water of His Word and the banquet of His presence. “Father, we pray a simple prayer in weakness. We ask that you would help us lift our weak and failing legs to walk towards your Word, towards YOU, oh precious living water. Let us not wallow in defeat, but rather help us see these parched times as times that draw us towards you! Amen”

Psalms 63:1 -"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

1 comment:

Sheri said...

Amen, sister! I am link'in arms with you from Germany, and will pray with you for more of HIM (in my life, your life, the lives of women I know), for His living water, for hunger to be filled, and for His grace to be "all." Love you so much!