For those who read any recent blogs of mine, I have been following a spiritual nudge from God to take time aside in my life to let him lead me through a desert experience. I felt I had to embody a prophetic picture of myself stripped bare in a desert terrain with little more than a beard, cloak and staff with strong winds whipping around me. For the last nine months I have tried to be silent more before God, to be attentive and journal the things he has shown me about my life, to read what saints ancient and modern have written about wilderness and prayer, and to find a deeper relationship with Jesus through it all.
I haven’t blogged as much as I might like partly because this prayer experience is personal and also because I am taking a while to orientate myself – what element of the desert exploration is a prayer posture, what part is the exposing of interior of my heart, what portion is a prophetic treasure trail listening to the call of God? It is all good and fruitful, but not much is easily communicable.
The only disconcerting thing is that God didn’t put a time limit on this journey, just a starting point. As it is for many that find themselves in a desert place in their faith. Some of our wilderness places are forced upon us, circumstances that strip us back. Some are ones we feel led to explore, as treks of exploring spirituality. Whichever it is, God’s only biblical promise is that He likes to encounter His people in desert places. Prophetic destinies are shaped there, the voice of God is heard there, miracles of provision and life are given there – the wilderness is abundant in spiritual potential, even as it is stark in its apparent barrenness.
My praying and reflecting on wilderness and spiritual journeys can at times seem a luxury, a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of extra if I find the time in my days and weeks. And yet I realise it is an essential part of my life right now, a gracious trail God is leading me on to bring me greater wholeness and closeness to Him.
I am finding it a fulfilling place to be, because I am meeting with Him and He is speaking into my life and the world I inhabit. Yet, at the start of the year, the Lord is reminding me that the longer I stay here, I am also finding things in the desert of my life that are not pleasant. There are attitudes, compulsions, emotions, fears, caverns deep in my soul – things that could discourage me in life. Yet I trust that Jesus is allowing these things to surface so He can bring healing, transformation, life and faith to these un-sanctified parts of me.
A friend of mine recently gave me a piece of prayer-art she had made for my 50th birthday. She beautifully portrays the life that God brings in a desert place, as Isaiah chapter 35 amply suggests: ‘water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert’. I must stay here 0n this journey until more of my wilderness is transformed, and more of the glory of the Lord is displayed around me.‘Come Holy Spirit, transform the desert of my experience. Let it become a holy place, a space of meeting and encounter with You’.