John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey. People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life. – Matthew 3:4-6
John is out in the desert. He’s wearing an outfit made from camel-hair, which had to itch like the dickens. He’s been eating bugs and honey that he stole from bees. He’s telling people to get their acts together. He probably hasn’t showered or bathed in a while.
In terms of “building a platform,” John the Baptist pretty much sucked. Yet, “people poured” out of the area to hear him.
Ever since my friend B mentioned this idea to me a few weeks ago, it’s been stuck in my craw. John the Baptist simply stood out in the desert and shouted his message. He lived life the way he felt he should – camel-hair, locusts and all – and he shared the words he felt he should share. And people found him. Thousands of people found him.
I can imagine the first few days or weeks. John’s out there. He’s talking to the lizards and scorpions, “Get it together. God’s on his way, you know.” It’s rough.
But then, someone in a caravan (that’s the only mode of transport I can imagine in the desert) passes by and hears him. They stop and listen. As they travel to Jerusalem, they tell the people they meet in the shuk that there’s this guy out in the desert eating bugs and telling this story about how people need to get themselves figured out. They talk about how something stirred in them, how something he said seemed true. Soon, more people are wandering out in the desert only to find truth being shouted from some hairy, smelly guy.
I’m challenged by this idea because often I struggle with the belief that I have to find my readers, find my dates, find an agent. If I just tweet more or set up more online dating profiles or send out more queries, I will find my people. John’s life seems to suggest the opposite – that I need to do what I need to do and let people come to me. I’m not very good at that. I like to do, to act. I don’t like to wait.
I wonder if John was thrilled with the idea of living in the desert and wearing camel-fur. I have to imagine that some nights, when the desert was cold and his only company was the flinty stars, he cried out to God and asked to be taken back to the city, or at least to a town where he could simply grind wheat or something. Sometimes the lives we are called to are not always awesome.
But John knew this life wasn’t about him. That’s clear as he talks about Jesus. John knows he serves a purpose greater than himself.
Most days, I sit out here on my gorgeous ten acres, and I am blown away with the grace that is these mountains just being painted with autumn. But some days, I cry out against those mountains and wonder how I can ever find a husband isolated out here, how I will ever build community when I have just 728 of living space, how I can ever make this a place where writers and musicians will come for respite. Some days, it just doesn’t seem possible.
But then, the sweet Spirit speaks me to calm again. Just say what needs to be said, Andi. Just trust me. It will all come. Just keep speaking into the desert. The right people will hear.
What are you called to speak into the desert? What makes you afraid to do so?