Wilderness Wonderings

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. (Exodus 3:1-6)

A few years back, a psychologist named William Marston asked 3000 people, “What do you have to live for?” He was shocked to find out that 94% of those surveyed were just enduring the present while waiting for the future. They would describe this as waiting for ‘something’ to happen – waiting for children to grow up and leave home, waiting for next year, waiting for a time take a long dreamed about vacation, waiting to move to a new home, waiting for retirement to happen. And if he surveyed many of us today, we would say — waiting for this election to be behind us, waiting for 2020 to be history, waiting for a vaccine, waiting for COVID to be in our memory.

Sometimes, I think we’re a lot like the airline pilot who said to her passengers, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we have a tailwind, and we are making excellent time. The bad news is that our navigational system is broken, and we have no idea where we are going.” This could describe some of our lives right now. Stuck in the middle in a holding pattern with little idea of where we are going next.

The Scripture for this morning is Moses’ story of meeting God during his personal wilderness. He was wondering where God was as he wandered alone with his thoughts. And then an incredible thing happened. In the intense heat of a desert, the spontaneous ignition of some dry thorn bush wasn’t really that unusual, but what was astonishing was that the flame continued without the bush being consumed. Instinctively, Moses sensed God was there in that moment. He took off his shoes and waited for God.

These are difficult days for many of us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually experience God in such miraculous ways, but I do know that God appears in my life to offer new possibilities as surely as God appeared to Moses. You know those moments when you can see, you can really see beyond what is visible to your eyes. I have experienced that God breaks through my ordinary defenses most when I have been in the wilderness times of life. When I am open, new insights about God and God’s workings in my life bubble up. I have a burst of insight that is profound. I see a new direction that I had never envisioned before. I catch a glimpse of meaning in my own personal wilderness. I begin to see hope in places that seem without hope. In short, I see God’s stamp on this world in a brand-new way.

Prayer Focus: For those who feel like they are wandering through the wilderness

Prayer: Merciful God, you search for us while we are wandering without a way. You strengthen us when we are beyond weariness. Whenever we are trudging through a path of uncertainty that blinds us to hope, through a dry spiritual desert that leaves us longing for an oasis of refreshment, we come in hope that you will once again remind us of your presence in new and surprising ways. Amen.