We tend to romanticize the idea of “being called” by God.
We imagine an adventure involving a machete, a rope bridge, and a country with a lot of vowels in the name. It will be tough, but at the end of the day we’ll be so firmly planted in God’s will that even the hardest parts of the journey will be kind of magical.
And then you answer a call from God, and it doesn’t go that way.
In fact, it goes the opposite of that way.
You find yourself not in the middle of a destiny, but in the middle of a desert.
Our first temptation is to think we have failed. Surely, other people who are more plugged into God’s will aren’t in the desert. Maybe it’s our problem. Maybe everybody else has the answer except for us. Who steps out in faith and immediately lands in the desert? What kind of crazytown failure is that?
But then I read Mark 1:9-13.
Here’s what it says:
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Wow, is there a more perfect start to a mission for God? A dove landed on him from heaven. (Please insert your own “This is what it sounds like when doves cry” joke here.)
And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Is there any question that God is in this adventure? He speaks from heaven! Cue amazing road trip song. (Probably something by Florence + The Machine.) Next scene should be Jesus walking down a road surrounded by friends. Go for it!
So what happens next?
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
At once? Seriously? No delay, no pause, no catch your breath here we go? At once, Jesus is sent to the desert. To be tempted by Satan. For 40 days. And then I love how it ends casually, like that’s a normal thing, “He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Oh, is that all? OK.
The desert wasn’t an eventual stop on this adventure, it was the first stop.
It was where Christ went immediately. So if you feel like you’re stepping into a calling God’s put on your heart and find yourself in a desert you didn’t expect, don’t assume you’ve failed. Assume you’re following in Christ’s footsteps.