by Jon M. Davis
Have you ever found yourself in a place that was unfamiliar and difficult? I do not just mean physically, but spiritually as well. As the matters of life pile up and time eludes us, and we look up from the comfort surrounding us, only to find that it is gone. It has really not gone anywhere- you have. You have wondered into the desert.
This place is called the Negev in Israel. It is a place covered with rock and sand. Very little grows here. Few people live here but they know it very well. It is not a place that frightens them. It is home. They know everything about it, especially how to survive in it. One of the primary principles of survival is community.
People in the desert need one another. In fact, the Bedouin law says that if anyone comes to you (in the desert) and says I need help and a place to stay, then you must provide for them for three days- NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Can you imagine a perfect stranger coming to your door and saying, I need a place to stay for a couple of days? Then can you imagine that you are not allowed to say no! I know we would all struggle with this in the West.
But instead of talking too much about the Western lack of hospitality, I would rather explore how to get to the desert. Physically, we drove about 30 minutes from the lush vineyards in the valleys of the Shephelah. We went on purpose, but we planned to not stay long. But spiritually, I believe that it works a little differently. I think that most of the time we look up and the desert has consumed us. We might have started out in the green valleys, but some where along the way we made some choices that took us off course. We didn’t stand still and wait for the desert to come to us. Instead, we either slowly killed off the goodness around us or left for a place to glorify our own sorrows. And regardless of what you might think, the desert is never really that far away.
Now I need to you to really explore that idea of the desert never really that far away. You can be there physically in less than and hour, but spiritually is usually a gradual, unknowing process. So, how does this process get started? I have a few ideas.
1) We stop praying. We cut off the communication from our side to our Creator. We allow time and busy schedules to creep in and kill the vines that tether us to God.
2) We stop studying God’s word. We have been provided the answers to the test, with real life examples of success and failure. And yet, we set the book down and wonder into the sand.
3) We stop fellowshipping (assuming we ever had fellowship to begin with.) More alarming to me is what would happen if the Bedouins stopped fellowshipping? How long would it take for their laws to be void? How many generations until such hospitable ways were gone forever?
4) We stop seeing things as God sees them and start doing things as we see fit. This issue alone has plagued many fallen leaders and cultures. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost because of the selfishness of both kings and commoners.
Have you noticed that we stopped doing a lot of things? Yet, God remains the same. Even in the desert, God is still the same.
When the pressures mount and Satan is whispering what a failure you are in both ears, remember this- God is still the same.
Now consider the responsibilities you have as a spouse or a parent. Especially if you are a father, are you leading your family into the desert? Or, more to the point are you leading them away from or out of the desert? To survive the desert you need a community of experts, not someone just like you, consumed in the sand.