My Dad has taught me many things. Top of the list is that Dad jokes are real, and they’re painful. He is a sucker for puns, loves turns of phrases, and never passes up an opportunity to tell a “joke”. (I put that in quotes because we’re stretching the definition there).
When my next oldest brother and I were younger and would play sports or chess or something that wasn’t necessarily up his wheelhouse, he had the same line locked and loaded when conversing with another parent. He would say, “Yup, I taught them all I know”. Of course, the subtlety of the humor was not that he taught us what we knew but rather what he knew – which, in those fields, wasn’t all that much. It’s one of the reasons why Sydney and I have taken to calling him “shameless”, because he doesn’t seem to care all that much what others think of him – and the puns are proof of that.
There are many things my brothers and I were interested in that was out of Dad’s area of expertise, but the greatest thing I ever learned from my father was indeed something about which I knew nothing and he taught me all that he knew. Of course, should he take time to read this, he’ll probably be a little caught off guard, because it wasn’t something he necessarily sat down to explain, but it was a lifestyle that I pray daily to emulate.
But to tell you what it is, I’ll explain it backward by sharing one of my biggest struggles as a pastor and a Christian.
Meeting God in the Wilderness
With the news that mid-April will see the peak of impact from the virus, it feels like everything is starting to hit a bit harder. People are losing work, and the goalposts continually shift. We don’t know if the news is trending good or bad or somewhere in-between because no one really knows anything. It’s a terrible place to be, and yet it’s paradoxically also the place where the best things begin. How can this be? – It’s because everything is going down right now – employment, income, milk and gas prices, moods and hopes – and when things go down, people usually start to look up.
That’s why so often in the Bible we see God bring His people into the wilderness. In fact, that’s really where the story of fallen humanity begins, as they are driven from a garden and into the wilderness. It’s also a place where many of the stories of the Bible take place. Why? – Ask yourself: when do you feel closest to God? Is it when all your ducks are in a row and life is churning along as you desire? Probably not. God feels closest in hospital-rooms, when we’re oppressed, scared, lonely, and desperate.
That’s why the wilderness is so prevalent in the Bible. It’s where God wrestled with Jacob and Israel was born. It’s where He met Moses to raise up the leader to bring Israel from slavery. It’s where the nation of Israel was brought immediately after slavery and before entering the Promised Land. It’s where David was forced to flee from Saul and then Absalom, penning beloved Psalms. It’s also the place where Jesus was first called when his ministry began, and where he was tempted by the devil.
God operates in the wilderness, because it’s the one place in this world where we get downright desperate. It’s where the words of the Psalmist become our words: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). And, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
The wilderness is the place where the black and white words of Scripture begin to ooze with color, coming to life as we don’t simply feed the mind but the soul. It’s the place where we can’t distract ourselves with the things of this world nor take them for granted. It’s the place where God takes us so that He can get our attention, because it’s the one place we can’t survive without Him. Desperate times produce desperate prayers.
My name is Bryan Lanting. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and I am presently serving Mt View CRC as their pastor. I am married to a wonderful wife named Sydney, and both of us are loving life, loving Lynden, and loving the Lord!