“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness…”
Have you ever been in a wilderness? I don’t mean a physical wilderness, but a spiritual one. The type of wilderness about which I speak isn’t somewhere you go, but a season of life you experience. This wilderness is a time of preparation, and it can often seem like an eternity when going through it. It is rarely a pleasant experience. It can feel dry, despairing, lonely, and the end of life as you know it. At least, that’s been my experience in the wilderness.
In the Wilderness
I remember the last real wilderness experience I went through. Bridget and I had stepped out of the institutional church system, and we didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know it was a wilderness experience at first; I just knew that we had stopped “going to church” and that there had to be more to this Jesus and His Church. I didn’t know what, and I didn’t really know what I was looking for. And, as I have discovered later, I didn’t know I wasn’t ready to know. You know?
The scriptures, and life in general, are full of stories of how people are just not prepared to receive what God has for them. Take the children of Israel: God wanted to give them Canaan, the promised land, but they weren’t ready to enter into it. God had promised this land to these people, and He had already fulfilled that promise. Only two men out of millions were ready to believe Him and thought they could take the land. So, the entire nation, including those two men, spent the next 40 years in the wilderness. Granted, this was a physical wilderness, but it was also a spiritual one – God used that time to prepare His people to enter the land. They needed to learn to let go of their own mindsets, trust God (even though He’d done some pretty amazing things already to earn their trust), and take Him at His word (“I have given this land.”) That may be an oversimplification of the process, but it illustrates my point: they needed preparation to receive what God had for them and to take and manifest His already finished plan.
In my experience, I had so much religious baggage that I needed to lose. A lot of it I didn’t even know I had! I could not enter into God’s fulfilled plan without first losing my own. I thought He looked like this; I thought the Church looked like that. My mind had conceived certain things, but in order to know Him as He is, I had to empty myself of all my thoughts, dreams, and expectations. God cannot fill an already full vessel. Once I had emptied, poured out, lost, and denied myself, then God was free to fill me with the more I had always sought: Jesus.
A Voice Crying out
But how does one get through the wilderness? The Israelites certainly didn’t get through it on their own, did they? They had the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They also had manna and the rock from which water flowed. God was still present with them in the wilderness, and He was still present with me in mine. His manna was in the form of another family who had stepped out of the institutional church system, too. We spent nearly every waking moment together. We looked for and followed that pillar of cloud or fire wherever we found it. Often times that came in the form of books, blogs, or audio messages. We read, we listened, we consumed everything we could on God and His finished plan, His fulfilled promise, His fundamental purpose. The more we saw Him, the more we realized the wilderness and accepted it as a time of preparation. Though we wanted that land badly, we weren’t ready for it. We thought we were, but we ultimately followed His timing.
God had a voice in that wilderness for us. He used Frank Viola, Milt Rodriguez, Watchman Nee, and T. Austin-Sparks to name a few. Reading and listening to the message of God and His eternal purpose through those men helped to get us out of that long wilderness. And when we finally came into more of the fullness of Christ, we were better prepared to receive it.
So, have you been in a wilderness? Are you currently in one now? Are you looking for a pillar of cloud or fire, a voice crying out in the wilderness? I know I longed to speak with others who had gone on before me, who had blazed this trail before. If you’ve found this blog, then you’re either lost or on the right track. 🙂 I’d love to help point you along the Way. Feel free to reach out to me.
Also, there are others on this journey, too. You can read more over at 3rdRace.org and listen to discussions on Christ and His Church at tothesaintsradio.com. There’s also a conference coming up in July in Austin, TX, that could be an oasis of Life to any in a wilderness experience. May you follow that pillar and hear that voice. May you come into God’s fullness.