One of the traditions in our family, as we raised our children, was telling
how they came to be in our family. On the morning of each birthday, we
would awaken the birthday child, give them a cupcake with a candle, sing
the ‘happy birthday’ song and tell them the story of their entrance into
becoming an Overstreet. It was a fun and meaningful tradition.

When thinking about the story of John the Baptist, he must have been told
multiple times about the miracle surrounding his birth and God’s call on his
life (Luke 1:3-25, 57-65). We don’t know if birthdays were celebrated, but
certainly, the circumstances and prophecies about his life were well known.

In Luke 1:80 we read “John grew up and became strong in the spirit. And
he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.”
Hence the question, why the wilderness? Perhaps God wanted John away
from the expectations of others and in a place where He could hone the
message John was to shout! He needed a place of solitude with no
distraction so John could have clarity of his calling. In that Judean
wilderness, people from all over came to see and hear John tell them to
repent, turn to God, and get ready for the Lord’s coming.

God often used the wilderness to get His people to hear Him. Moses was
in the wilderness (Exodus 1:1-15) when God spoke to him from a burning
bush and told him to lead the rescue of the Hebrews from Egypt. Elijah was
running away from Jezebel (I Kings 19:1-15) and he ran into the
wilderness to a cave. In that cave, he could finally hear the gentle whisper
of God, be comforted, and learn what he was to do next. Our dear Lord
Jesus Himself was led into the wilderness (Luke 4:1-17) to show us victory
over temptation, but also many times during the following three years he
went there to pray!

Perhaps we could consider the barrenness of the wilderness an
invitation rather than a punishment. Perhaps there is intention in the
wilderness, not desolation. The spiritual practice of silence and solitude
does not need a desert but it does need intention. Finding a place where
we can choose to “Be still and know that I am God” causes us to be able to
hear Him.

“He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear because of the
noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.” Fredrick Faber

Reflection: What might God’s purpose be for you to be in the ‘wilderness?’
How do you respond to such an invitation? Sit quietly and ponder this
practice for yourself.

My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Psalm 27:8 (NLT)

Francie Overstreet

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