I look back at my life three or four years ago, and I see a different man. I look back even further and I fall on my knees and worship to give glory to him who left heaven behind to enter my world of filth and darkness. He knew the man who lived inside, broken and bound by the sins of my youth, tied up by evil and pain surging through my soul.
My Lord looked down from heaven and I returned his gaze. There were stars all around me when I first got saved. Had you looked close enough, you would have probably seen them. Like Paul, preaching Jesus in the synagogues only a few days after his salvation, I couldn’t contain my joy. I told my drinking buddies all about my new faith, reached out to everyone I knew and eventually became a missionary to places far away.
Back home in Berlin, I hung out with drug dealers in the park and junkies at Teen Challenge. I preached with my buddies in trains and prayed in a distance while my wife ministered to hookers and transvestites. We saw salvations and the budding fruit of destiny. We saw us reaching the nations, planning crusades and slaying devils far away.
But instead, we ran out of money and our ministry came to a screeching halt. I started selling charity memberships to pedestrians on the streets. I faked a huge smile each time I approached someone and a great mood while burning on the inside. I couldn’t understand why this is happening. We had so much going for us and we thought we’d be in ministry from now on for the rest of our lives. We thought we are coming into what God had prepared for us. Isn’t he JHWH-Yireh, the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14)? It was an inglorious death of a dream, falling into obscurity faster than the two guys who sang Macarena.
About a year went by and we found ourselves floating around, not knowing which way to go. After many twists and turns, we ended up in the US where my wife was originally from. The application process and the future unknown took my mind off my frustrations. We focused on a new life and tried to figure out how to make ends meet.
Unfortunately, problems don’t go away by changing locations. We went from a buzzing city of over 3 million people to a small town on the other side of the world. I don’t know jack about Football and I’m illiterate about hunting, farming, and fishing. I entered my desert like Paul entered Arabia. I came back to face old issues like Paul when he came back to Tarsus. I had have to work on core issues like relationships, friendships, and commitment. I have to learn how to be content in every situation.
It’s a weird process, one of core issues yet mingled with profound breakthroughs. The lessons I am learning today will prepare me for the tasks ahead of me. God is refining my character and ironing out my habitual sins that are hidden from my sight. New revelations about the sin patterns in my life hit me on a regular basis. My sins keep me in the desert but the desert is my training ground. I can’t live the dreams God dreams without being able to handle their weight and responsibility. I know I’m not yet at the point where I can take on the responsibility God is calling out over my destiny. I’m not yet strong enough and I don’t yet love enough.
The desert life
Moses spent 40 years tending flocks in the desert. We know the end of the story but Moses didn’t. He was only sitting with his sheep, thinking of where he ended up with and maybe even regretting the choices he made. When we are caught up in the moment, walking out our destiny through trials and challenges, it is difficult to see the purpose behind it all.
Even if we are in the will of God, we don’t know when our time of preparation will be over. It could be tomorrow or it could be in, well, 40 years. During this time we learn to trust the Lord and rely on him to help us form our core beliefs and clean up our character. The desert is a gift, a jewel treasured when walking in our destiny. It’s the foundation of a refined character and the work no one sees except the one who called you to it.