As I continue my God-initiated journey toward the "promised land" that God has hinted at in Scripture and by the Spirit, I have made some discoveries in the wilderness.
First, the "wilderness" is a difficult place. People don't buy time shares in the "wilderness". Generally, it is a place to avoid because it presents challenges to our comfort zones. But the wilderness is a very biblical place to be when God is in charge.
In the wilderness, we have to decide if the journey is worth it. And the only way to value the journey is to value the One who leads us on the path. For the children of Israel- like us in so many ways- they consistently lost sight of their Wilderness Guide and focused on their comfort. Focusing on their comfort created confusion about the God they had so tangibly experienced during the Exodus.
Tangiblility. That's a problem for all of us- especially Americans. Like the Israelites, we need to accept a God who is intangible yet quite real. We need to embrace a God who remains mysterious yet reveals Himself in unmistakeable ways. Our poor memories of life in Egypt tend to trump a God of power and love who has taken us on for better or worse.
I'd like to believe that there were plenty of people in the Israeli camps that voiced their allegience to the God of their fathers. Perhaps they said something like this: "Yes, I remember how we ate in Egypt and how we could predict each day's activities. But I can also remember God's intervention. Having experienced God- even once- has changed my outlook and I can never go back. To do so would require me to deny not only God, but my very real experience with and because of God. No matter what today brings- or the many todays yet to come- I choose to follow this God who I can't figure out and I cannot define. I may never realize God's ultimate desire for me, but having encountered God (an experience that God initiates), I have something in my life that prohibits me from returning to the culture that kept me in bondage."
I think that the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost may have felt the same way. They had experience Jesus and in spite of 10 days of confusion, anticipation, and probably not a little impatience, waited for something they had never experienced simply because the Jesus they knew had told them to do so. Instead of returning to their cultural and spiritual routines, they stuck it out until whatever was to happen happened. They had enough of a taste of something transcendent- yet very human and very real- that they knew they couldn't return to the life they once knew- a life they were probabaly quite comfortable with.
Paul is another example of someone who after encountering Jesus, had to chart a new path because he could never return to the Egyptian judaism that he knew so well. A new and more powerful Player had entered his existence and his life was redirected in that Way.
Similarly, I have been drawn toward the God of the universe by God's initiation. And in spite of the challenges, lonliness, confusion, and wonder, I realize not only can I not return to the land of Egypt (read: American Christianity), I don't think I want to. No matter what lies ahead, I choose the "us" that is God and me. I welcome others who share the same affinity to join me in the quest. Thankfully, there are others and in time we will share community.