As I continue to think about what happens during life in the wilderness I’ve been caught up with the phrase “distracted and discouraged.” First off I like the alliteration of the double d’s, part of having been a pastor is that we all try to think in terms of alliterations and rhymes to remember what we’re talking about. It also has helped me reflect recently on where my journey through the wilderness has gone, where’s it’s going, and how I’m moving forward.
Once again the basis for my thinking comes from the Scripture, as the People of God walked through wilderness out of Egypt to the Promised Land. I have seen that the major distraction for them was based on their stomachs. After having been redeemed by God, and rescued out of the place of slavery the people continued to let their stomach’s distract them from the goodness of God. They complained about having a perfectly satisfying meal provided for them freely every day saying that it was boring, and out of His grace God gave them what they asked for, tasty meat. And while walking through the desert they wondered if they were going to die from lack of water, not trusting that God would provide for them what they needed. And to show the people that He did care He brought water out of a rock! I see this as God showing off to His people. Seeing them complain and whine and groan because they don’t trust Him, and then He flexes His muscles and the impossible happens.
I get distracted in the same kind of ways. I have a sense of a destination. A place of wholeness, a place called home. I kind of know where I’m going, and that the way there is trusting God, but there are so many things that can get in the way of me doing that. Usually the things that get in the way are things that I perceive that I “need” or at least things I want, and suddenly the pursuit of those get in the way of working my way to the destination that God is leading me towards. One real thing that has been a bit distracting is this really fun hobby game that I enjoy. So I’ve been investing quite a bit of time into it. Not in an unhealthy way or anything like that, just in a way where I have made it a priority to play it often. And by playing often I have been making new friends, and have become part of a community that I think is really neat. But I realize that this may become something that gets in the way of me moving towards that place of wholeness. The time that I spend doing that could be used elsewhere, and the money I spend in it may not be the wisest use of my money. Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I think that it is a bad thing to have hobbies that I enjoy, or to use some of my money on things for me, but I don’t want this game to become my life, because I am sure that God is doing something much bigger in my life than just allowing me more time to play a game I really enjoy. As I walk forward I need to be reminded that on the journey there are good things provided by God, for me it’s been an increase in free time. My responsibility is to use that time in a way that honors God, not just to fulfill what I want to do when I want to do it.
Another common ailment in the wilderness is discouragement. That place of wholeness often looks much more frightening than we would like. And the journey there is filled with setbacks that make it look like no progress is being made at all. It is astonishing how many times the People of God ended saying something along the lines of, “was it because there were no graves in Egypt that God led us out to the wilderness to die.” They truly believed that it was a cosmic joke being played on them that they were going to die as wanderers in the wilderness instead of as slaves in Egypt, and they thought it would have still been better under yoke of slavery instead of walking with the God that rescued them.
I sometimes wonder if my life would have been better if I had stayed in that comfortable spot 4 months ago. I know it would have probably been more secure, I would have stayed on the upward progression I had in mind for my life and career. And as I walk forward with the decisions I’ve made, I have at times wished to go back. But that really isn’t an option. I think it’s grace that makes that type of regression impossible. God’s will to move us forward in our journey with Him is protected by His power. God is more interested in my progress than I am, which is really comforting. My intentions and drive and steadfastness (read stubbornness) get tired and run out, but God’s don’t, God has the power and energy to see things through. So as I continue down this path that at times really makes me wish to go back to a place I should have never been, I am encouraged that God is the one in control seeing this through, and my duty is to just trust that where He is leading is where I’ve always been meant to be.
In it together friends.