A few weeks ago, I heard that my generation is referred to as the “Joshua Generation,” by some in the Christian camp. Most likely, the title was bestowed upon us by our own, which is hardly the way to claim a such a thing. I’d never heard of the term “Joshua Generation,” but when I dug a bit deeper, I found that it’s referring to Joshua 6 where, under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites claimed the city of Jericho. It’s a great story and one that a generation would be glad to claim as their own. It’s a story of dedication and victory, and of God’s promises. Someone was bound to claim this story at some point – might as well be us. Interesting how no one has claimed the story of Job yet. Guess the themes of suffering and faithfulness aren’t quite as popular.
Back in the day, us twenty and thirty-somethings were lucky enough to be part of an outpouring of God through worship that was rich, intimate and seemingly worldwide. It lasted years and years, and then, it was gone – like God went silent. The power left the room and all of the sudden everything felt so….hollow. So many of us believed that we were promised the world. That we’d see a revolution in the world like none we’d ever seen before. It was an exciting time and we were full of hope and confidence. But then the well went dry and we were left wondering what happened. Eventually, the crowd scattered. Prophets became plumbers and worship leaders became salesmen. We entered the desert and became a tribe of nomads. It’s been nine years since I joined the tribe. Nine years since God stopped speaking. (I know some of you are shaking your heads, saying that God never stops speaking. I respectfully disagree. I absolutely believe that He is constantly speaking indirectly, through the Bible and those around us. But for a while, there was a tangible sense of God’s presence. We heard the voice of God in those days. Even in the Bible, just as the Lord chooses when to speak, He also chooses when to silence Himself).
The thing about the desert is that it always lasts longer than you think it should. You begin telling yourself that this is just a season. You tell God that you’ve learned your lesson. In my case, I told him that I’d been broken, that I was made humble. Now I was ready to run, ready to conquer the world, ready to become famous and “just like the moon, I’d reflect the sun.” All that crap. In the desert, you remind God about His promises. You grumble and complain and walk in circles. It’s boring and you feel useless. This is my problem with the “Joshua Generation” tag. It sounds all privileged and exciting, but everyone forgets the 40 years spent in the desert by Moses and the people of Israel prior to bringing down the walls at Jericho. An event that even Moses didn’t get to witness. Forty years is a long time to wander in the desert for a six day event. Which one of you would take 40 years in the desert for 6 days across the Jordan. Or spend 30 years preparing for a 3 year ministry like Jesus? No one wants to be the “Desert Generation.” We’ve all got it in our heads that we spend 3 years preparing for a 30 year ministry, which seems to be counter-biblical.
So, do I think that God is done with us? Not at all. But I think He’s made us nomads for a reason. There is something that happens in the desert that doesn’t and cannot happen anywhere else. You are exposed in the desert. You’re just out there – no where to hide. Completely exposed to the elements. There is no culture or promise to hide behind. But I’ll tell you something that is absolutely true. You will find yourself in the desert. When you’ve been beaten down and hustled enough, you’ll realize that you’re not as strong as you think you are. You’ll discover that you don’t care for who you’ve become and then you’ll realize that who you’ve become is who you’ve been all along – you’ve just lost the fig leaf.
For years I asked the Lord when He would let me leave. These days, I’ve stopped asking. Partly because I’ve just lost the drive, but mostly because I’ve gotten used to the heat. You will never leave the desert until you’ve learned to live in the elements – until you’ve traded your clothes for camel’s hair and your caviar for locusts. Recently though, some of my friends have left the desert. They’ve begun hearing God again. The transformation has been exactly that. Something akin to a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. They are different people now. With an authority and passion that only God can birth. But they know that their home is in the desert. That in time, they will return to their tribe and begin another season of challenges and growth. But for the time being, they are giving it all they’ve got, taking hold of God’s promises and seeing them become reality.
You can call my generation whatever you want. I’ve gotten used to the sandals and I’ll wander around wherever He will have me.