Imagine that you were in a desert at night, freezing and hungry. You see a campfire far off and head toward it. You get closer and see it is a large bonfire in the middle of a caravan full of people merrily eating and drinking. You creep to the edge of the camp, wanting to come in, but think, “I don’t know these people. Even if they’re friendly, and I can’t be sure they are, I have nothing to offer them for their hospitality.”
As you turn slowly to go away, savoring every last second of the warmth, a heavy hand claps you on the shoulder and you turn to see a big, ruddy man with a beard down to his chest. “Welcome, stranger!” he says happily. “Come, join us by the fire. Eat, drink, and rest for a while.” Then he leaves you to join or leave as you see fit.
You go in for a little while and the food is fantastic. There’s plenty to drink and the fire warms you up quickly. You’re enjoying yourself until you remember that you have nothing to offer them, not even a good story to keep them entertained. You’re not rich, but a penniless desert nomad. And so you leave before anyone asks you for something, before it can be proven just how little you belong there.
From that day on, you continue your wanderings, seeing the caravan from time to time. You get close, but rarely as close as you did that first time, partly because you are afraid to face the host again while you still have nothing to offer.
This is what many Christians do with God. We are walking around in the desert, needing things, yet when we find Him and He offers us what we want, we turn away because we feel we don’t deserve them. It’s too good to be true, so it probably is, we reason. Instead of eating roast chicken, we turn back to the desert to scrounge for locusts and dig for water, hoping to one day find something shiny and valuable that we can either offer to the host or keep for ourselves so that when we meet him again, we are important enough to be invited in again.
Your place by the fire is not offered because you’re special on your own. It’s not because you have something to offer that’s needed. It’s because the host wants you there. That’s it.
In the next part, we’ll get more in-depth as to why we leave and what it is we’re looking for out in the desert.