Lessons in the Desert

I hate the desert. The seasons where God’s love feels more like a leaky faucet than a tidal wave. The seasons where His voice sounds more like crickets than thunder. It’s in these seasons where the seas crash over into the boat, and I grab my little cup and try to scoop out all the water to stay safe. The water flooding in faster than I can scoop it out. All the while, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat, refusing to respond to my desperate cries for help.

It’s very confusing.

When I ask God for more of Him, I expect Him to answer with Holy Spirit fire and rainbows and butterflies and puppies and pumpkin chip cookies. Instead, He takes me to the desert. It seems so backwards. But I’m learning from personal experience that only the desert can show us where our flesh is reigning. My flesh. It’s only in the desert that I discover this thing in me that hates being dependent on a God that I can’t control. Knowing that He is Love, but being absolutely powerless to force Him to fill my soul with His life. It is in the desert that I discover that I’m completely dependent on His willingness and desire to give Himself to me. And something in me despises the fact that I can’t have God when I want Him in the way that I want Him without ever having to be vulnerable with Him. (Apparently that’s not a real relationship.)

However, it’s also in the desert that I discover something in me that longs to be dependent on a God that I can’t control. There is something in me that is desperate to live in this place of abandonment and trust and wonder. Jesus says that whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child won’t enter the Kingdom. That Greek word for child literally means a newborn infant. An infant can’t do a single thing for itself. It doesn’t contribute to society in any way. It can’t chime in at the dinner table. It is completely dependent on the goodness of another person to take care of its every need, and has no ability to give anything in return. It can only receive.

No wonder the cross is such an offense to our flesh. Romans 7-8 talk about these two desires within us that war against each other. There is something in us that hates God. And there is something in us that longs for God. And every day we have a choice of which desire we will nourish and which desire we will crucify. Realizing that we have a choice has planted a small seed of hope in my heart. Hope that I can acknowledge my desire to do everything on my own without actually bowing down to it. Hope that I can also acknowledge my desire to entrust my entire being to God and actually do something to position myself to be dependent on Him.

I wonder what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t frantically woken up Jesus. What if they followed his lead and took a nap with him? I mean, seriously. Would they all have drowned? Would the water have filled the boat to the point of capsize? That’s sure how it feels in the midst of the storm. And nothing in me wants to position myself to be dependent on him to keep me safe when clearly we aren’t going to make it across. Allowing space for God to move is terrifying because what if…

But I’m also learning that it’s in the “what it” that we find that God is everything that He says He is.

Of course Jesus doesn’t even crack open an eyelid. I asked for more of him. So why would he contribute to keeping alive the thing in me that hates being dependent on his goodness? We ask for more of him, and so he takes us to the place where our flesh is crucified. And it is painful beyond words. It requires an incredible amount of vulnerability and courage. Because every fiber of my being flesh wants to respond in self-reliance, self-protection, self-preservation.

I’m beginning to wonder if Jesus sleeping in our storms is actually proof that he partners with us to crucify our flesh by refusing to enable it survive.

Isn’t there a way to experience resurrection life without a crucifixion death? If only.

So, as much as I hate the desert, I’m thankful that He so deeply longs for me to have His whole heart and for Him to have mine, that He refuses to relieve the pain of the death of the flesh.

Thank you God for allowing the pain for a little while so that my heart can be wholly Yours forever.

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