The Words the Hose Family

The Desert -- Part II

David Hose
September 1985

As you go on your journey through the desert toward Canaan, let your thoughts go back to that someone who journeyed with you, for a week, a month, a year -- on the best fundraising team in the Southwest, in that small crowded clapboard center in West Virginia, on the open sea off the Gloucester headlands -- the one who left.

Bill Matson, my late respected Sunday school instructor, had mentioned faithlessness in the camps of Moses, at which times God's wrath left more than a few smarting Israelites reflective to say the least. But Mr. Marson never spoke of anyone leaving camp, just throwing his hands up and walking back to Egypt. It seems that regardless of the hard times or punishment meted out from above, everyone somehow managed to stay around. It is, of course, fair to remind ourselves that the Israelites did at times cry for Egypt, but there were treacherous miles between the desert camps of Israel and Egypt; not to speak of a probably less than bubbling welcoming committee on the opposite side of the Red Sea. Both of these realities most likely did more than a little to discourage even the most road-weary Israelite.

Our desert is different; perhaps that explains why there is something called a "drop-out rate." Sitting in a corner office of the World Mission Center seven stories above Eighth Avenue and 35th Street in New York City, I am all too aware that our Sinai is right in the middle of Egypt. We do not have the luxury of distance from the old slave-grounds. And our slavery is not the hated chattel variety that built much of the ancient world; it is a far more subtle subservience which we don't often hate enough.

At the risk of oversimplifying I would like to make some basic points about our journey in the following few paragraphs.

The Outer and Inner Journey

If I were to compare the outer aspect of the Israelite trek with our own, I would say that our desert is the sum of all our missions, our work, and our daily efforts for God, up to the gates of Canaan. The fact that one is gifted in the outer crossing, fairly bounding from dune to dune, task to task, is not the final measure of success in this passage. Someone may have been blessed with great "legs" for this outer crossing: with a bright mind, new ideas, and the ability to captivate audiences, witness, fundraise, or whatever seems to be required. Moses himself may have mentioned such a person's name at a gathering of the tribes; but beware of the "gold star syndrome." The gold star syndrome is the condition applied to that member of Mr. Marson's Sunday school class who seemed concerned more about garnering hordes of awards for attendance, verse memorization, bringing new people, and having a clean face, than in making meaningful inner spiritual progress. For fourth graders this syndrome is common, but if it persists in adulthood it can lead to major problems.

Have you ever noticed in your own journey how your outer progress, success and recognition can, at times, be the beginning of inattention to your inner journey? Ironically, it is only in those times of what we refer to as "deep struggle" that we get down to facing the real, honest-to-goodness issues that are the stepping stones of our inner journey.

Here is a person famous for great achievements, put in charge of a group of non-achievers, out in the middle of nowhere, asking God, "Why did I end up here with this bunch of 'no-shows' to lead?" Yet unknowingly, he is about to be blessed with the opportunity to face something in himself that the gold stars never illuminated. Probably there will be "deep struggle" -thank God for it.

Here is a brother or sister loaded with golden honor, suddenly engaged to someone who never smelled the bouquets of victory, personal or otherwise, someone who "deeply struggles." Up comes the question, "Is this what I get for all I gave?" And again, this is an opportunity to discover that gold stars and restoration of the self are two very different things.

Some of us, before the age of 33, had a greater number of committed spiritual children than did Jesus Christ--more gold stars. But look at the inner dimension and journey of the man; he made his journey while confronting phenomenal daily challenges.

It is the failure to recognize the ultimate cruciality of this inner journey, along with the outer victories, that has led to the "sudden, unexplained" departures of many outwardly successful members of many religious groups in the past. Indeed, there comes a time when outer achievements end up in dusty storage rooms, and one is left with the question, "What was inside of all that I did?" Our personal histories, and all of human history itself, will pivot on the answer.

Two Generations within Us

Each of us must come to know the two generations in the desert:

And the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, "How long shall this wicked congregation murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say to them, 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell...' "
Numbers 14:26-30

It was during a forty-day training program in 1981 that one very serious young brother stepped into the education office after the lecture on the course of Moses, and asked me, "Are we the generation of Moonies whose destiny is to die out on the desert?" This question he rapidly followed with a query about how one stays hopeful in spite of a future not unlike that of a lemming.

The simple answer is that though there were, finally, two physical generations involved in the Exodus from Egypt to Canaan -the tragic first generation, and the more pure, faithful second generation -- the original will of God was for the first generation out of Egypt to go all the way to the Promised Land. And it is with that same hope that we can go all the way that God looks upon you and me today.

Let us take this moment to look soberly at what we are dealing with. It is of tantamount importance that you and I recognize and learn to deal daily with the two generations within each one of us before entering into conjecture about who is going to enter

Canaan on down the road; whether our children, or some mystical future generation of Moonies.

Burying the Old Self

In a very real sense, it is all too simple to proclaim that this generation will be the one to die nobly out on the desert, wound up in the coils of a misunderstood indemnity. It's a lovely way of exempting oneself from the hard work dealing with the two inner generations within ourselves; work which must be done if we are to pioneer the Promised Land.

In each one of us, there is the "Egyptian" self who accompanied us into the church: old attachments, prides, self-concepts, loves, hates, patterns of thought and behavior, hurts, all of which do not conveniently drown in some Red Sea at the time of our first commitment. Within, as well, lies the potent new life of the citizen of Canaan that God wants to bring to birth out in the desert. Canaan is not a place we are going to. In fact, it is in the course of our crossing period that Canaan is "founded."

So, it is not this generation that God wishes to bring to an end out in the wastelands. It is only the "Egyptian self" that He wishes to bury. Without the death of this old self, a day-by-day process, there cannot be the growth of the new self. As long as this "dirty old self" is unexamined and unthrottled in our life, we will, in fact, violate and abuse the sacred new life trying to be born out of us.

Coming to know these different identities within ourselves, and seeing how they function, can liberate us from crippling guilt and give us the freedom to journey beyond our old limits. While there is no one recipe that covers everyone, I would nevertheless like to go more into depth on this subject, with the focus on the new birth, in the third part of this series.

In the last part I will discuss the vital necessity of becoming more keenly aware of the importance of supporting each other. Learning the inner course of restoration, slaying the "Egyptian," and birthing the new self are extraordinary tasks that become easier for each of us as we learn the humility of true friendship. If in the rush for Canaan we miss this fact, whatever our stated faith or conviction, one has to wonder what, indeed, Canaan will be like. 

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