The Words the Hose Family

The Desert -- Part I

David Hose
June 1985

Rev. David Hose joined the Unification movement in 1967. He took part in the 777 Couple Blessing, and he and his wife Tacco now have five children. He has served in many positions of leadership. Since 1979 he has worked mainly in the field of education, teaching international 40-day workshops in the USA, Africa, and the Philippines, and 120-day training sessions in New York, as director of the Education Department under Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak. Since October 1984 Rev. and Mrs. Hose have been in charge of the field operations branch of the World Mission Department.

The boys' fourth-grade Sunday school class at the Chelsea Park Community Church had a wondrous teacher by the name of Bill Marson. For a teacher to make it to the "wondrous" category, he had to be able to grab and hold the attention of eight squirmy grade-school cronies for thirty minutes once a week. Mr. Marson had a special way of making Bible stories come to life; his companion in this magic was a big green flannel-graph storyboard upon which he'd spread the various characters of the Old and New Testaments (purchased at the local Christian bookstore) in colorful disarray.

My favorite among all the sagas was the story of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness_ As I think back, my fascination with the epic probably came not so much from a "providential grasp" of the events as from a visual love affair with the flannel- graph images; the parting of the Red Sea, water gushing from dry old rocks, the mysterious and fearsome Ark of the Covenant, and the unforgettable shining Moses just back from the mountaintop embracing the two tablets of stone -- miracle after miracle! And Mr. Marson let us know in very certain terms that God delivered His people through the trials of Sinai time and again, through weal, woe, commitment, and complaint.

At least one of Mr. Marson's fourth graders made it to the Unification movement, and three decades after attending those classes he realizes that there are realities in the desert-crossing that his teacher never spoke about. No flannel-graph in Sunday school ever illustrated the "inner crossing" of the Hebrews in Sinai. There were no illustrations of the "inner deserts" each man and woman had to face; or of miracles that God could only await from the hands of His children -- too subtle for a flannel-graph. In light of the "Sinai" we have traveled together in the twentieth century, it is important that we spend some time and energy to explore our own Exodus at this more subtle level.

Why the Desert?

"Why must I go through all of this?" One wonders how many times the question must have hung like a burning sun over the head of a wandering tribesman in Sinai. "Why the desert, why the suffering? Is there really a land of milk and honey?" The tribesman may be long since gone but the question is still with us. "Why the desert?" is an ageless query asked somewhere along the way by every single person who has ever chosen the road to Canaan (or we could call it "the way of restoration").

Arid landscapes were, in fact, the growing grounds of early Hebraic and Christian religious roots. The faith of Joshua and Caleb was forged through adversity in Sinai; while the earliest Christian monastics quietly distinguished themselves through contemplation and service in the Egyptian wastes. After all, these expanses were created by God, and though extreme in climate and geography, they served in disciplining many a spiritual journey.

What, then, of the inner desert, this inner crossing that the flannel-graph never touched on? It is a desert every bit as substantial as Sinai, the Mojave, the Sahara; with just one difference -- it was not created by the hand or original will of God: It is an expanse opened up at the human fall -- a desert of the heart far more formidable than deserts of sand. It is the wilderness faced by the pilgrims of Sinai, by the early Roman Christians, and by those who turn toward Canaan today. It is a desert not tortured by a baking sun but by a distance from God; it is in myself.

Just to Belong Is Not All

There probably weren't all that many in the throng that lined the shore of the Red Sea, freshly delivered from Egypt, who reflected on the implications hidden in Sinai. After all, Jehovah had decidedly chosen sides, had split the sea, and Canaan was the talk of the camp. Self-reflection can be a rare commodity at such a moment; God is "with the group" and that is that. And that is good, but that is not all.

It is easy to identify with the conviction of the Red Sea shore. To be sure, it is a beautiful thing, the simple knowledge that God is with us. It is the knowledge that fired our street meetings in my early days with the movement in San Francisco; that flowed from the heart and mouth of many a campaigner during the "Day of Hope" era; that allowed us to bring 300,000 people to the Washington Monument. It is a knowledge that we cannot do without.

But there is also something to be aware of: Knowing that God is here with this group, whether on the banks of the Red Sea or on a street in New York City, is only the first step toward Canaan. Knowing that God is with my leader is, again, crucial but just the beginning of the trip. Why then the desert? To state one conclusion in reflecting on Israel: It is there because I brought the Egyptian with me, inside of me. (Here the writer must remind his reader that through the Principle we understand that "Egypt" symbolizes the fallen world in our view of the Old Testament, while "Canaan" represents the foundation for the Kingdom of God.) Granted, the Israelites won a decided physical victory over the armies of Egypt at the Red Sea, but the spiritual victory over the old "Egyptian" self is not brought about by such events. And herein lies the secret and significance of the desert. It is to be the burial ground of an old self and the birthplace of a new self, a citizen of Canaan.

Facing the Desert Within

We really have no enemy except the one within. And victories over those who would stop our movement, while critical, should not leave us satisfied or without thought for that inner "Egyptian." Moses had his day with Amalek and we had our day with the Fraser subcommittee (both good days) but in the very next moment the inner confrontation resumes. It is this protracted desert warfare that determines your destiny and mine.

If the desert crossing is the love of God, on God's terms. What if Jehovah, full of sympathy for the former Egyptian slaves and the desire to gratify His chosen ones, had put Canaan just across the border from Egypt with no desert? Canaan would have been a living hell from the first moment of occupancy. Fresh from a totally God-assisted victory over the Egyptians, but with no personal victories in the passage to maturity and faith, yesterday's slaves would become today's pompous slaveholders. Without the purifying life of the desert (the way of tang gam), Canaan would be a sham kingdom, full of voices chanting, "God is on our side," and worse than Egypt had ever been. The desert crossing is the love of God, on God's terms. Are we not also former slaves? And do we not also long for the cooling streams of Canaan? There's no great virtue in longing for the Promised Land; we all want it.

In fact, it doesn't demand much virtue to sign a membership form, to accept the teaching, or to come tearfully to a liberating Lord. Jehovah, who silently searched the faces along the shore of the Red Sea, searches our throng just as surely for one whose face is set toward Sinai, the desert; for one who seeks God's love, on God's terms.

And for those who go the way of the desert, our Heavenly Father, though His grace is ever present, does not compromise His terms. The episode of the golden calf illustrates this beautifully. On the mountaintop, an octogenarian named Moses has just completed a forty-day fast, to receive God's terms, in part, for his people's passage through Sinai. Meanwhile Aaron, down below, has conceded to the terms of the people, to melt gold intended for higher purposes and build a golden calf, a flashy bit of collective self-gratification. The consequent meeting of Moses with Aaron, the people, and the calf speaks eloquently of God's terms versus man's terms.

God's Love Goes Beyond Stopping Our Pain

It is too easy to cast blame on Aaron and the other conspirators of Sinai, but how many times during the desert course of any one of us does God have to reconfirm, over our own various idols, His terms for our passage to Canaan? I can't forget the timeless testimony of one younger brother who said, "Everything was going along just fine with me, until God invaded."

The desert crossing is the love of God, on God's terms. He loves us enough, as He did the Hebrews, to walk every inch of the way with us, to feed us with quail and manna, and to bring water from stones. Yet the far more profound act of love lies in the fact that He is willing to send us out to the desert to begin with, and to let us make the journey. If there were the slightest grain of self-love in Him, He would, sooner or later, rush to gratify us for fear of rejection; He would shorten our passage and pains; He would build for us the lesser Canaan we so often, in our mediocrity, cry out for -- another flannel-graph miracle.

The miracle of Canaan is of a far more subtle texture, and of a different nature than the parting of the Red Sea. It is a miracle that God in His greatest love puts in your hands and mine. And only as it is wrought can the answer to "why the desert?" be given. 

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