How To Know You're In The Wilderness

You don’t know where God is.

Or maybe you don’t know who God is or if God exists.

Or maybe you're idea of God is okay, but you don't like the humans in church. It isn’t working anymore, but you’re caught in the awkward and painful territory of figuring out what to do with your life.

It’s a wilderness of faith, friend. 

If you’re like me, you had a context, a structure, a box. Probably church and handful of spiritual leaders. These served you well for a while (Or maybe they didn’t. We can talk about that, too.) 

The progression is natural. Get in the box. Feel safe in the box. Form your whole life vision in the box.

Outgrow the box.

I don’t know exactly how it played out for you.

For me, I hit puberty and decided I needed to get my life on a good trajectory. I was flirting with girls in my neighborhood at the time. I decided I needed to pursue God. That meant no more flirting with girls and doing church stuff.

Honestly, I was doing my very best. It was a laudable pursuit. 

I connected with the youth pastor at my family’s church. He set me on a path I’m still thankful for. I needed some rails for life, I did. I got them. To this day I feel loved because of that experience.

I was a good example of a church kid. I said the right stuff and behaved in the right way. God, the powerful white male in the sky, was probably proud of me.

I felt safe.

I continued this path in high school. No sex, no drugs, no rock and roll. Extra church. I read my Bible everyday. I prayed prayers like “God, please crush my pride.” I lead worship and Bible studies. I went to camps and conferences. I murdered it, man.

And on into Bible college...

I went to a prominent school and learned what great church leaders do. I gained more insight around the Bible and what it looks like to run a large church.

I was in.

Honestly, it is hard to say where the unravel started for me. If I had to point to a genesis, I’d say it was an urge to get some space from church.

This felt holy somehow. 

Was it God calling?

I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure. 

I wasn’t pissed off or upset. I just felt I needed a better view. Sometimes you can’t see something if you’re totally intrenched in it. Forrest for the trees, I suppose. So, with the help of a pastor I called it a “sabbatical”. That made me and others feel better about the whole ordeal.

I thought I’d step out for a couple a months and get right back to action. I was an active worship leader when I left, by the way.

It didn’t go according to plan.

Not by a long shot.

I thought I’d find answers, but I ended up more unraveled.

I thought God was going to speak in an obvious way. Instead, I got quiet and found God within.

I thought I’d know what to do when I was finished. Instead I was pretty lost.

I still kind of am.

I’m just comfortable with it now.

Is Jesus really Lord? A few years ago it would have terrified me to even ask. But now I don’t sweat. In fact, I tend to go towards the fear and panic.

In an odd way, this has become a new form of strength. You can’t knock me over, because I don’t resist large questions. It’s hard to shatter someone who is not held together by beliefs.

“Joshua, what if you’re wrong?”

I could be! I have been and will be again. No problem.

Still, if I am very, very honest in the quietest moments, in those moments when I’m in a room alone and for some reason have no iPhone nearby…

…if I’m real, I still feel the pull of Jesus. I’m still compelled in some way. I still hear a kind of calling.

So, if you’re suspicious that maybe there’s something about this Jesus thing, I’m with you.

If you don’t know what to with a lot of other stuff like sexuality, church, a spiritual practice that’s actually useful… I’m with you one hundred percent.

This is wilderness. It’s tough, it’s beautiful and it’s rewarding.

I took some time to put together thoughts around spiritual wilderness. My prayer is that it gives a little bit of aid for the journey.

Download it here.

Jesus, I don’t think you’re freaked out by questions. Some of your closest friends doubted you and denied you. Thank you for a grace that is massive and current. Amen.