Growing Strong in the Wilderness
“Dad, I want to take James hiking in the big peaks of the Adirondacks like we did for Joel’s fortieth.” James is my youngest son’s boy, and as we ate the Thanksgiving turkey, it felt good to hear Josh talking about challenging his son with some of the hikes he faced as a kid.
James is eleven, and when his dad was his age, Mary and I took him all the way to Waterton, Canada, in the Rockies. He not only stayed right with his older brothers up the 2263 ft. climb to Crypt Lake but stripped down with Jonathan, his oldest brother, and dove in to the freezing water. Then early in his teens he spent four weeks in the mountains in Upstate New York.
As a grown man, Josh now realizes that these wilderness adventures helped to strengthen his body and his spirit. He wants to see this same growth in his son, and God agrees with Josh’s desire to test his son in the wilderness. We know this because God chose to use the wilderness in John the Baptist’s upbringing.
“Now the child grew and became strong in spirit. He was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” - Luke 1:80
This is how Luke summarized the early life of John, the forerunner of the Messiah. If you’re a preacher or Sunday school teacher, resist the temptation to fill in the blanks with your own speculations. An author tells the story he wants to tell by what he includes or does not include. When we add details that aren’t in the text, we actually end up telling a different story, our own. This is a dangerous thing to do when your audience thinks you are teaching them the Bible. So we must leave John growing and being strengthened by the Spirit in his spirit in the rugged wilderness, and anticipate when John will publically reveal himself, and the Messiah, to Israel.
LORD, guide Josh as he challenges his son in the mountains. Strengthen the same stick-to-it-iveness I see in Josh’s life in James’ life. Move a lot of dads to get their kids outside and off that constant diet of high tech.
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