“We’ve not seen any people for hours?” Martha, my wife, nervously questioned as we found ourselves somewhere on a deserted wilderness road of the grid in the outback of Africa.
We had been laboriously bouncing along this pathway from one pothole to another, sometimes anxiously wondering why we were where we were in the first place. Unfortunately, I have this adventurous spirit deep in my soul for which Martha has often had to pay the price or just enjoy the ride. Most of the time she rode shotgun with a willing spirit. But then there were those times—this was one of them—when she patiently struggled against the residuals of security that still lingered from her city bones. Over the years, I have tried to extract those bones from her in order to give her some relief in the midst of my adventurous excursions that ended us up in situations in which we were on this day.
“Don’t worry. I think I know where we are,” I confidently replied as we edged near to the summit of another mountain. I had assured myself that the peak of this mountain would give us hope of where we might be in the African wilderness in which we found ourselves.
When adventuring in a wilderness, mountains are always opportunities for great expectations that lie just beyond the peaks. There is a certain hope that generates within one’s mind as he or she nears the summit. One leads himself to believe that just on the other side of the peak there is a panoramic view that will lead to the discovery of where he really is. And hopefully this discovery will reveal that one is closer to his intended destination. So on one of those adventurous wandering expeditions, and over a particular mountain peak of expectation, we both peered from a forsaken path somewhere off the grid in the middle of Africa.
So before we reached the peak, I prepared Martha. I put on a face of confidence as I turned and said to her, “As soon as we peek over this peak we will discover where we are.” We were in a deserted range of mountains that had concealed civilization. Admittedly, both of us yearned for an end to our epic bone-rattling expedition.
After uttering these words, I covertly concealed my own apprehensions concerning our whereabouts. I was soberly cautious not to signal through any facial expressions or voice articulation any of my own possibility that we just might be somewhat lost. At the time, Martha needed some settling reassurance from her supposed brave African guide. After all, I had convinced her throughout the years that men never get lost. They only loose some recollection of their presence.
So as we tipped over the summit of a particular mountain somewhere in Africa, the expectations of both of us were suddenly dashed. Martha quivered out loud, “But the road has no end.” We were both condemned to the unknown. Our faith had brought us to one mountain after another, but the peaks gave us no satisfaction.
It was as if our destiny had been shifted far beyond our hope. Our expectations were exhausted. We were cheated of destiny. And so often is life. When we think we have arrived, we find ourselves behind. When we think we have reached a peak for hope, we are jolted into reality that we are really in the pits.
When traveling for Jesus, mountain peaks of hope often deliver no direction for one’s arrival at a particular time in life. Sometimes, they only bring us to a point of disorientation. Life for Jesus is that way simply because Jesus expects our faith to kick in when we are in times of despair. If we keep going in the right direction, His destiny for us will eventually be realized. And as long as we are looking unto Jesus, we have no other recourse but to keep going from one mountain to another.
I cautiously glanced out of the corner of my eye at the fuel gauge and calculated somewhat how much further we could journey on into the forsaken wilderness in which we found ourselves. Once I realized that the petrol gauge was quivering close the “E,” I came to the uncomfortable realization that all was not well. There was that gut feeling that led me to surmise that our intended destiny might be beyond the capacity of what was left in our fuel tank. There certainly would be no joy stranded in the middle of the wilderness with an empty tank. All those stories of people being lost, stranded and dying in Africa flashed through my memory.
In my spiritual life, I have been in such situations as this before. At the time, I thought I was out of spiritual gas in a wilderness of disorientation with no direction. I knew my gifts as a disciple of Jesus, but the destiny, or where I would minister with those gifts, would just not reveal itself. My destiny seemed to be so evasive, if not totally obscure in the unknown future. So I just continued to laboriously journey over one mountain peak after another until frustration set in. Prayers then became pleas for a peak of hope.
Nevertheless, faith drove me on regardless of what was yet to be. There was no other alternative in this glorious adventure of living the gospel of Jesus. As Jesus stood on the brink of heaven, I am sure He felt as I when He was about to make that leap of faith into an incarnate body of flesh on earth He, as I, could only say, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”
Many years ago back in the 60s when Martha uttered the words, “I do,” she had no idea that she was marrying adventure. Our first adventure to places we had never been sprang into life as we, with four children from nine months to six years of age, were off to Brazil. We then made our way all over the West Indies. And finally it was to Africa.
Just before boarding a plane for the African continent, we were at a shopping mall in America. Martha witnessed me throwing sleeping bags, tents and other wilderness paraphernalia into the shopping cart.
“Why are you buying sleeping bags and all that stuff?”, she interrogated, while starting to realize the real “Indiana Jones” she had signed up with back in 66.
“Everybody in Africa sleeps in sleeping bags and tents,” I sheepishly replied. She had no idea what was on my mind and what to expect. She had never been to Africa, so I played on her ignorance of the adventure into which I was leading her.
During that first year in Africa we found ourselves venturing here and there from one wilderness to another, from one Bible teaching class to another. Throughout the 90s we made our way into the interior of ten to twelve countries a year in order to fulfill the destiny of both of our lives. I had found my destiny, and she was along to enjoy the ride to discover her own.
Once one discovers his or her God-given gifts, and the destiny where those gifts can be implemented to the glory of God, then it is as if that final mountain peak over which one gazes leads toward one’s purpose in life. I can assure you that it is an adventure of faith along the way. Nevertheless, it is a joyous adventure with our Lord Jesus Christ. It has to be that way.
On that particular wilderness journey from one mountain peak to another, we finally made ourselves to the final peak where our destiny was gloriously revealed. There was an end to the road. We had conquered all apprehension through faith. By just driving on and on in the face of doubt, we were finally award our destiny. We just kept the faith along the way.
We somehow find those journeys that lead to questionable destinations. I have a tendency to leave the bold lines that indicate main roads on a map in order to explore the fine lines. I once submitted Martha to take with me a questionable turn off the main-line path that was carved out of the Namib Desert of Namibia in order to traverse in an area where there were no lines. It was another adventure into the unknown and I just could not help myself. As we labored along on a sandy road, it seemed as if the whole world disappeared behind us as we ventured over one sand dune to another. As we struggled along in the sand in second gear, Martha became increasingly silent. And when Martha is silent, there is disturbance in the air.
Along that desert sand track that seemed to lead to nowhere, I again glanced at the fuel gauge. So had she. The anxiety of the moment was increasing as both of us hoped for a destiny to arise just over the summit of the next sand dune. It seemed like we were again trying to go beyond the limits of our fuel tank.
Everyone has experienced a wilderness at times in life. It is the way life is. We have all found ourselves in a desert with no destiny in view. We sometimes feel marooned without hope. We often find ourselves just skipping along from one peak to another, sometimes numb emotionally and without any hope for better things. Each pothole almost becomes unbearable. Our fuel tank is running dangerously low. Martha and I have a closet that is full of T-shirts on these matters.
When you are there—marooned in a desert—it is a time for faith. In fact, maybe God allows us to go into the wilderness or desert in order to exercise the vitality of our faith, or maybe just validate our faith. And then maybe we are to just keep pushing the envelope of our faith. If this is all true, then I will be the first to testify that it works. Some doors do not open unless you leap toward them when they are closed. But keep in mind, that my closet is also full of T-shirts. Each one hangs there in my closet as a testimony that God does deliver us from desert dunes and wilderness journeys.
So over one hopeful dune after another, I did not know exactly where we were on that Namib Desert pathway we were making for ourselves. I just knew that we needed to keep driving West. That was the direction of the Atlantic Ocean, which was a pretty big body of water that I was sure we could not miss. Sooner or later, we would strike water and waves as the desert gave way to ocean.
But I will never forget that when we peaked over that final dune, Martha leaned forward and strained her eyes to see far in a distance. She excitedly turn to me and burst out, “CARS! CARS!” What she really meant was, “We’re saved! We’re saved!”
She was the first to identify two or three vehicles that were driving on the coastal road of the Atlantic Ocean of the Namib Desert. So indeed, we were saved.
I suppose the moral of this story is that in those times of great apprehension in life—or simply downright discouragement or disorientation—just keep driving over the mountain peaks or sand dunes. Keep looking for the cars. I assure you, sooner or later you will be able to cry out, “I’m saved! I’m saved!” And indeed you are by the grace of God. Never forget that.