When I was 16 years old, one of my favorite bands was The O.C. Supertones. If you have never heard of them, they were a very energetic ska band that infused the ska sound into rock and roll and rap. Their live show was awesome! They, like most of the bands I liked around that time, no longer exist. Still, thanks to Amazon Music, I can go back and listen whenever I want.
One song I loved that they sang was one off of their album Loud and Clear called “Wilderness.” Here’s the chorus:
“Have you ever held in doubt
What this life is all about
Have you questioned all these things that seem important to us
Do you really wanna know
Or are you a little scared
You’re afraid that God is not really exactly what you’d have Him be
What should I hold to and what should I do
How do I know if anything’s true
I’m somewhere in-between Canaan and Egypt
A place called the wilderness”
I honestly just like the song because of the sound. The guitar riffs, the horns blaring, and the quick lyrics just appealed to me. It wasn’t until much later that I came to appreciate this song on another level.
When I was 16 years old, Jesus saved me. I had prayed the sinner’s prayer a few times before that. I had even gotten “baptized” (I put it in quotes because getting dunked in a tank means nothing if Jesus hasn’t saved you). At 16, something different happened and I knew it. Jesus didn’t just save me at 16; he called me. His calling was clear to me at that time. I was going to be a pastor of a church. All believers are called my God; I understand that. But my calling was in the direction of proclaiming God’s Word as a pastor of a church.
I ran from that calling for over a year. This led me to make some bad decisions. I would try to silence the call by filling the void with other things. I would listen to other voices that told me what I wanted to hear. This led to choosing a college and a career path that was not in God’s plan. The whole time, God’s call was getting louder, and I could fight it no more. So I transferred to Bible college and began pursuing the path God had for me.
Fast forward to 20 years old, God calls me to a loving, godly church. I came on staff under two staff members who would help train and guide me, as well as letting me experience what it meant to be a pastor. I considered it to be somewhat of “on the job” training if you will, and I am forever grateful for what I learned.
Fast forward to 25 years old, God calls me to a church as the pastor. Nine years after Jesus saved me and called me, I am finally where I have been called. The people of the church loved me and my family. They were gracious in allowing a “first-timer” to come in. They worked with me through success and failure. When I had good ideas or bad ideas, when I handled things correctly or incorrectly, no matter what, they stood with me.
Fast forward to 33 years old, I’m no longer a pastor. There were a few situations that led to my departure from the church where I was pastor. One of those situations was for the last year or more of my pastorate, I doubted God’s calling on my life. Honestly, I doubt it now. I’m in the wilderness. Like the Israelites, I’m not back in Egypt, but I’m also not in the Promised Land.
My pastor is preaching through a series for Christmas called “Emmanuel: God With Us,” and he is currently in Exodus where the Israelites are wondering in the wilderness. In the midst of being in the wilderness, they can have hope, peace, and joy because God is with them. Our Sunday School class just started Numbers and still the Israelites are in the wilderness. In the midst of being in the wilderness, they have the visible presence of God. “Where are we supposed to go? What are we supposed to do?” Just follow the cloud and the fire. Just listen to what God says.
Oh that I wish that we could have a pillar of cloud and fire today. But this truth remains: God is with us, even in the wilderness. God is with me, even in the wilderness! I don’t know what his plan is for me. I have tried blogging, writing books, podcasts, preaching, singing, but I have taken a step back to seek what it is God wants me to pursue. Please pray along with me that I will trust God in the wilderness and that I will follow him as he leads me out.