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  • Writer's pictureMatt Davis

The Wilderness Generation

The truth is, we are all on a journey. Depending on when the question gets asked will determine where you are at in your journey. It's never static. Had you asked me six months ago I would have probably told you everything was just fine. We typically characterize these various changes in our lives as "seasons."

"I wish we could just go back to..."

The nostalgia surrounding that place, those people, the simpler times. In our heads life tasted sweeter, even if it wasn't so sweet, it at least felt less complicated and we just didn't know what we didn't know, and that ignorance was bliss.

"That was rough!"

Ever said that one? I have. More than once. We carry the scars from those seasons, and while we'd never want to go back, they made us into something. The battle wounds. The wisdom. The intimacy.

"We have finally arrived."

It may not be the destination you originally intended at the beginning of the journey, but the arrival and having the impossible behind you, there is a thankfulness for the rest, the deep breaths.

When King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun, that life is "hevel," (הבל) a mere vapor or a breath that's already been spent, we are reminded that generations before us have walked these ancient roads. Old Testament scholar and theologian, Walter Brueggeman, in his book "The Spirituality of the Psalms" has profound wisdom about our seasons of life. He depicts that we find in the the Psalms three experiences we find ourselves in; seasons of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation.

Psalms of Orientation express a season when all is right in the world. Our posture is facing toward God and there is a delight in His Presence, in His creation. Think of Psalm 8, for example.

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"

And then, at times without warning, it feels as though the rug has been pulled out from underneath us. That delight of being with God feels more like abandonment. Disorientation is the grasping in the darkness and searching for God, feeling like He is either evasive or cannot be found. In these seasons, we are not alone. Psalm 13 describes well this season in this lament.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

When we are stuck in that time of lament, it feels like forever. If only there was that light at the end of the tunnel we could crawl through and manage joy in some form once again. There is an emerging that takes place in Reorientation, a Divine rescue of sorts and the forlorn find hope and restoration, like Psalm 73.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Brueggeman beautifully summarizes this movement from Orientation to Disorientation to Reorientation within the bounds of not just the spiritual life, but the experience of being human.

"What is promised in this covenant is not equilibrium but faithfulness. The Bible is realistic in knowing that life does not consist in pleasant growth to well-being, but it consists in painful wrenchings and surprising gifts. And over none of them do we preside." Walter Brueggeman, Spirituality of the Psalms

That is mostly what all of this is about for me. This blog intends to be a collection of thoughts that try to capture the movement of God within the human experience, mostly my own "painful wrenchings and surprising gifts" that are far more universal than unique to me. I have spent a lot of my life in the land of Disorientation. Author Paul Young calls it, "The Great Sadness." I call it "The Wilderness."

The narrative that has spoken to me and captured my heart lies in the destiny of the Israelites, a people enslaved in Egypt for 400 years and delivered by a Mighty God, not to the Promised Land, but to the Wilderness. We wish our experiences went straight from Egypt to the Promised Land, but that space between, the dreaded Wilderness, is unavoidable, and the life between Egypt and the Promised Land leaves us yearning for one or the other. Even if it means going back to Egypt. While these three movements are a picture of these seasons of life, I believe God speaks to us most intimately in the Wilderness.

The Wilderness shapes us still today.

I believe we are "The Wilderness Generation" and have much to learn from those who have walked these steps before. For God, He was never in a hurry to get His people into the Promised Land. He desired closeness as He led His people through a land of desolation. I have walked, with my own feet, and I have seen, with my own eyes, these physical places: Egypt, the Wilderness, and the Promised Land. I can sit here now and vividly picture all of them and have tried to put myself into the sandals of the Israelites. Whatever season you find yourself in, I hope that this story deeply intersects with your story, and together we see our place in a greater story that is being told, full of redemption, restoration, and a Promised Land to come.

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