I Invite You to Desolation, RSVP (or God’s Own Area 51)

decay-1209997_640Desolate.

Deserted of people, and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness.

Do you know the place of desolation? Have you spent time there?

Geographically, I’ve encountered some extremely desolate places. Spiritually, I can testify that Desolation is also a spot on the map of my soul’s geography. Many of you have sojourned there, too. People are familiar with desolation that occurs when one is rejected but we can visit desolation even at times when others surround us and their accolades fall on our ears.

I read an article that didn’t surprise me about an actress who felt winning an Oscar only served to show her the emptiness of her life as she was facing the desolation of divorce. I’m reading a book now but a Christian brother who was highly successful in a Christian field but found his soul deep in desolation even as he accomplished much for the kingdom of God. 

Those moments come for us all, I know they have for me. I received my first book contract when I was in the midst of terrible personal turmoil over some very central relationships in my life and major disruption at my day job. While I accepted countless congratulations on social media for my “arrival” in publishing, I dragged myself through long days and cried myself to sleep. The contract was a joy, a gift to encourage me in the midst of trial but I received the news during an extended stay in Desolation.

It’s my habit to return regularly to the gospel of Mark and I’ve done that recently, renewing my view of desert-1443127_640Jesus in this vivid and immediate version of His story. This time through, one phrase is leaping from the page for me – desolate places. Jesus spent much of His earthly ministry in desolate places. He withdrew to desolate places to pray. He preached and ministered in desolate places when the crowds became too overwhelming for Him in the cities. He invited His disciples to follow Him to desolate places at the height of their popularity. And, most striking for me, is that He fed the thousands with loaves and fishes when they came to listen to Him in a place so desolate, the disciples couldn’t imagine where they would find food.

Until now, I’ve despised desolate places. I’ve rejected desolation in my life as a detour from God’s plan for me, a wrong turn, something to be ashamed of, hidden, avoided, and forgotten as soon as it’s gone. I don’t imagine the disciples were too excited to follow Him to desolate places. These were men accustomed to the obscurity of fishing boats at sea and suddenly they were rock stars of the ancient world. Maybe a couple of them breathed with relief at pulling back but I bet more than one chafed at the notion of leaving the crowds at the height of their ministry. I’ve dragged my feet when He’s beckoned me to Desolation but the gospel of Mark is changing my thoughts on this.

God is unafraid of desolate places. Just as He saw no impediment to walking on water, likewise, He finds nothing to fear in Desolation.

In fact, He seeks out desolate places. He invites us to join Him there. It is where He feeds us. It’s where He multiplies to abundance what little we bring. It’s in Desolation He reminds us that our value with Him doesn’t lie in what we accomplish but simply in our being with Him and He with us. It’s in Desolation that He weans us from the applause and the nodding approval of the crowd and teaches us to measure our lives more through our “To Love” list than our “To Do” list. It’s in Desolation that we remember our limitations, our fragility, our child-like nature, and we re-establish our complete dependence on Him and it is there He supplies what we need out of nothing. He takes the meager meals we’ve prepared for ourselves and demonstrates how, in His hands, this offering can serve thousands.

chornobyl-1209692_640Now, I’m scouring the scriptures for desolate places. Now, I see the essential work of God there is to be observed out in the barren wasteland of our lives. Desolation is not so much a place to be endured as it is a place of wonder, an opportunity to locate God’s secret workshop. Like discovering that all the stories about Area 51 are real – a visit to Desolation is where we learn what all the great biblical men and women have found when they entered their desolation – that He is God and there is no other.

God whispered a secret to us about Desolation through the prophet Ezekiel and I whisper it to you again now, especially to those of you languishing in Desolation yourselves. Hear the Word of the Lord: “And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of oasis-67549_640Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’  Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:35-36 ESV

Is God calling you out to a desolate place, loved ones? Follow Him there and see what He is about.

Story of With**The book I mentioned I’m currently reading is by Allen Arnold and it’s called The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create. I highly recommend it.

Also, you may be interested to know that my latest book (I’m so excited Jesus and the Beanstalkabout this book) Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) is AVAILABLE anywhere books are sold. Ask at your local bookstore or order online. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

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