He sustained him in a desert land,
in a howling wilderness waste;
he shielded him, cared for him,
guarded him as the apple of his eye.
–Deuteronomy 32:10, NRSV
When I finished my doctoral studies, I was ready to start my academic career. The long path of study had begun with a clear awareness of God’s call. With the degrees behind me, I was now ready to make a name for myself in the scholarly world.
“Make a name for myself.” Only later would I see how that desire had worked a spiritual coup d’état in me. During the years of graduate study, I had unwittingly turned God’s call into a plan for me. Hunger for success had formed a kingdom in my head. It seemed so reasonable: scholars make names for themselves. Why shouldn’t I? I yearned for the same recognition they all had.
But when I couldn’t find an academic job anywhere, Charmaine and I found ourselves stuck in a 3½ year desert excursion, off-script and off-track. Kicking and screaming, I protested that deserts were for other people. But this no-exit situation became a forced fast. Without it I could never have glimpsed false hunger and the kingdom I had formed in my head. That kingdom was impeding God’s call. It wasn’t what God wanted. My life, and Charmaine’s and my life together, could not be about ‘making a name for me.’ For it to be shed, this distorted desire needed to be named. Without wilderness times, no one can be saved. Thank God for deserts. –Anthony Chvala-Smith, The Kingdoms in Our Heads
- When have you been confronted with false hunger? What “forced fasts” have brought perspective in your life?
- Where might your own “distorted desires” be impeding God’s call in your life now? What desert are you invited to enter, or stay in, to discover your deepest, truest hunger?
- Prayerfully dwell in Deuteronomy 32:10. Even in the desert times of life, how is God present with you and sustaining you?