“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” (John 14:15-17, NLT)
It's been a little over 3-1/2 years since I walked into the desert. I remember the day pretty clearly. The scheduled meeting ended up including my manager and an HR representative. It concluded with me heading home midday with a "package of paperwork" and a bag full of worries. Late 40's, mortgage and bills, four mouths to feed, clothe and house ... and unemployed.
Back then, I wrote about teaching a class on Lent and the Christian disciplines. My wife observed (and rightly so) that I had been required to give up my job for Lent. Looking back, it was a step into the desert - first the desert of unemployment and then the desert of recurring contract-only employment.
In the desert, the temptation is there to whine and complain and blame. Just look at the story of the Israelites and their decades of wandering. The desert actually became a kind if dysfunctional home for them. They didn't know any better and they flat-out refused to turn to the God who was protecting and providing every day. Their desert experience could have taught them so much, yet they spurned the lessons and history records the result.
I'd like to think my desert experience has been more productive, that I've learned some lessons. For one, I've learned to trust more. We never went without food or shelter during these past 3+ years. God provided and we even began to "fill in some holes" that had been dug over time. I started my own company that I use today to provide training and consulting. We even managed to take a long-overdue vacation which turned out to be the best we've had as family (and the last one in our RV).
So now, as I sit here on the eve of "permanent employment with benefits" once again, I'm thinking about what I've learned and what I still have to learn. Sure I'm walking out of this particular desert, but the lessons are far from over. Just as an example, when I opened up BibleGateway, the verse of the day read:
"But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means." (1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT)
Isn't that just like God to show me who he is and that I still have things to learn. The Crooked Path went through the desert him to teach me. The journey and the learning continue even as I walk back out of the desert tomorrow morning.