Tumbling in the Sand
“Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.)” – Acts 8:26
I wonder what Philip thought when he first heard this messenger from God tell him to go to this place. I imagine it was a little confusing. The writer of Acts even points out that we should think it confusing, noting that it is a wilderness road that Philip was called to go to: a road in the middle of nowhere, where no one would spend much time at all if given an option. Wilderness roads aren’t exactly safe places or comfortable places or places of destination. Wilderness roads are mostly surrounded by wild-ness, danger, and not much else. Wilderness roads are simply a means to get somewhere else; and so, to intentionally go to this space, this place of transition between one town and the next, hardly seems like a good idea.
I imagine that Philip might have been a little confused about why he was headed there. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was a little nervous about what he’d find: maybe even a little scared. Or, he could have been thinking that this was a real waste of time: What was he going to the wilderness for? To minister to scorpions?
But, whatever he thought, Philip got up and went. With no recorded complaint, no hint of trepidation, Philip gets up and heads to this place of nothingness, this place of in-between. And there he meets up with an incredible person: a powerful, educated, faithful person. And there, on that wilderness road, Philip and the eunuch bless each other with holy conversation, beautiful promises made through the water and the Spirit, and each other’s company. That wilderness road, a place of barrenness and uncomfortable journeying, turned out to be full of blessing.
We don’t generally like places of transition. We like to be somewhere—we would rather be in Jerusalem or in Gaza, not on the seemingly barren road in between. I know when I travel, I rarely enjoy the travelling as much as the being where I’m going to. And I think the same is true in our lives: we don’t like the unsettled feeling of moving from one thing that we were to the thing that we are becoming. Though, I suppose what we dislike even more is that we don’t even know what it is that we are becoming most of the time! And that is kind of like walking on that wilderness road seeing nothing but wilderness to the vanishing point on the horizon. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us want to hurry up and get along with this journey. It makes us kind of feel like turning around and going back.
But, maybe Philip can teach us something here. Maybe from Philip and this eunuch we could learn that there are blessings on the journey—blessings we least expect, maybe even richer blessings than we’d get had we just stayed still. Or maybe there is even more to learn than that—maybe Philip teaches us here that the journeying, that the wilderness in-between, is actually the destination.
Featured image from the blog: Israel Tour Guide