Friday, July 20, 2012

Crossing deserts?

I like salty treats - even to the point of craving them sometimes.  Whenever I consume them though, I usually end up drinking a lot of water - because they make me thirsty.  In the end, they leave me thirsty for a long time, not just while I am taking them in.  My body simply cannot process all the sodium in the salty treats without a whole lot of water.  In fact, whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the "excesses" of life, we often crave what we most need to help us deal with the excess.

God—you're my God! I can't get enough of you! I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts. (Psalm 63:1 The Message)

So, we crave what we most need to deal with what we find ourselves enduring!  Sometimes we are "enduring" stuff by our own doing - like when I eat a huge bowl of Cheezits or eat a whole candy bar.  The sodium from one and the sugar from the other just cause me to "crave" the very thing which will help my body deal with the excess of sodium or sugar.  Now, let's take a look at some of the things we find which develop a more "spiritual" craving.

Our psalmist gives us an example of traveling across dry and weary deserts as a source of both hunger and thirst.  We all have them - deserts.  We may live in the greenest parts of the world, but we endure deserts!  Let's just look at a couple of deserts, shall we?

- The desert of loneliness.  We may find ourselves suddenly without familiar acquaintances.  Perhaps it is the result of a move to a new locale, the loss of a spouse, or the lack of solid friends we can pour our hearts out to.  Regardless of the cause, we find ourselves enduring a sense of loneliness.  At the core of loneliness is the idea of being without a companion in the journey.  This desert is then a place of isolation - whether you wanted it or not.  In the place of isolation, we often find ourselves without the people or things we have found ourselves relying on in the past.  Now, as we examine the purpose of this desert, we might find it hard to imagine a "good" purpose!  Being isolated is definitely NOT God's plan for us humans - he made us specifically to "relate" to others, not to be alone.  So, what "good" comes out of this desert?  

Well, I can only share some of the things which have come out of my times of being on a journey in this desert.  First, I have learned I actually NEED other people.  There is nothing more revealing about our "dependence" on the feedback of others, the sense of hope rendered in a simple touch, etc., than to be suddenly alone.  We need connection.  In fact, believe it or not, we crave it!  Second, I believe God may actually allow some of us to walk this desert to draw us closer to those he has given in our lives.  You know the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"?  I think it is realized the most in the desert of loneliness!  God's lessons to you may be a little different, but if you will allow him to speak to you in your desert, he will reveal the lessons!

- The desert of despair.  This is a most difficult desert to face.  It is one in which we have lost hope - we are without any sense of things ever getting better.  In this desert, we often find ourselves out so far on the limb, the weight of our burden so great, hearing the cracking of the limb as it strains to keep us upright.  We are "stuck" - we cannot go further out on the limb or turn back.  This is indeed a most difficult desert to cross.  Yet, the most hopeless place is often the place our faith begins to take flight!  

In the desert of despair, we begin to look for solutions we often ignore when things are smooth sailing.  Things like intimate prayer with our Maker - pouring out our hearts to him with eager desperation.  In the moment of despair, don't we often find ourselves looking back to God?  Did you catch that?  We are looking "back" to God!  It is an amazing thing, but despair often drives us back to God - maybe even without ever recognizing just how comfortable we had become without him!

- The desert of brokenness.  The very thing we need in this desert is the very thing we have absolutely no ability to accomplish on our own.  It is only by the restorative and regenerating touch of our God we cross this desert.  We may be "broken" by a whole lot of things - bad relationships, words which have left us scarred, or just a series of bad choices which resulted in us being "undone" by life.  

In the desert of brokenness, we need "repair", don't we?  What we drink the most freely of in this desert is God's grace.  It is indeed a refreshing and restorative "drink".  

Regardless of the desert, look again at our passage.  The purpose of the desert is to cause us to hunger and thirst.  Hunger for the best, thirst for what will refresh truly.  We may have a lot of desert-crossing in our days.  Just remember this:  No desert is without hunger or thirst of some kind.  What we do with the hunger or thirst determines the outcome of the desert-crossing!

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