Well? What is it? Desert, or Babylon?
The preacher sat across from me, nursing the same cup of coffee he had purchased over an hour before. I suppose one might forget the cup in front of him if the conversation was interesting enough.
Still, he wanted an answer to his question. I didn’t have one. Not then.
I think I do now. Maybe I should let him know. Oh, let him wait. Our next coffee morning is sure to find us sparring a bit—verbally, I mean—and we’ll discuss it again.
I had mentioned that it was a little hard to pick up my old writing habits in a new place, somewhat unfamiliar to me, and then I referenced the Psalm which wonders how it would be possible to sing the Lord’s song in a strange place. The people of Judah had been taken into captivity in Babylon and, being asked to sing their familiar praise songs there by the river in that foreign place, declined, breaking down and weeping instead. (Psalm 137:1-4)
I have been feeling sorry for myself for a few months. I think perhaps my nobody-loves-me-everybody-hates-me-I’m-going-to-go-to-the-garden-and-eat-worms lament was getting tiresome, so the preacher decided to shut me up about it.
Well? What if you’re really in the wilderness on your way to the Promised Land instead of in captivity in Babylon?
We bantered about it for a few minutes more and I left—headed back to Babylon—or the desert—whichever.
And yet, like a Labrador puppy with a new toy (or, more likely, an old stick), my mind kept worrying at the question.
Oh, what was the difference? Neither was desirable. I didn’t want to be in either place.
Babylon was a place of punishment—a place to go and either die or repent.
Funny. They complained in both circumstances.
Why is that? Why do we complain about the process when we know—absolutely know—what’s coming is glorious?
I understand the unhappy folks in Babylon. They have nothing to look forward to, only dimming memories to hold in their hearts. It would be nearly impossible to sing their joyous tunes there.
I’m not being punished.
I’ve known, for many years now, I will never arrive at my goal here in this world. Well, I say “I’ve known”, but I guess I never really believed it. At least, I don’t live like I believe it.
It’s easy to become complacent, isn’t it? To begin to be satisfied with less. Less than what we’ve envisioned. Less than what has been promised us.
Because, less is easier.
And the angel of the Lord told young Mary she would have a child and He would be the Son of the Most High—a King who would rule forever. (Luke 1:30-33)
And Mary said, I’ll take that. What you said, I’ll take that. (Luke 1:38)
The angel didn’t explain about the stable. He didn’t describe the terrifying flight to a foreign country to save the young boy’s life. Nothing at all was said about the boy wandering off to the temple.
I didn’t read anything about that horrible, horrible day when the Roman soldiers would torture and kill him right before her eyes.
Gabriel, that bright messenger, never told her that would happen. Not a whisper.
But, she had a promise. And, she accepted the promise.
Funny. I also don’t remember ever reading anything about Mary wanting out of the deal. Ever.
She simply tucked the memories and confirmation away in her heart and she kept up her part of the bargain. Through the pain and the heart-numbing sorrow, she did her part.
Somehow, I think I may have the wrong things tucked away in my heart. Somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten the original deal.
This isn’t the place the story is going to finish.
Just as the story of Mary’s Baby never ended on that horrible hill, ours won’t be done until our Creator says it is.
Every step—every one—brings us closer to the place of joy and peace He’s promised.
And, along the way, we enjoy His provision. In the midst of desolation and hardship, He feeds our spirits and sustains us.
The deal stands.
I’ll keep walking.
Milk and honey are still up ahead.
Through the desert.
I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…
(from The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~ 1900-1944)
The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers.
(Exodus 16:31 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.