When our oldest son was around four, we decided he was old enough to have a box of 64 Crayola crayons. Not only would the variety of colors enhance his art work, but his vocabulary would increase as he learned the names of each crayon. He happily selected one or two crayons at a time and stashed the box carefully behind his back as he lay on the floor coloring one of his masterpieces. He often invited my husband or me to color with him. During one particular season of such artistic companionship, he would specifically select the orange and the brown crayons from his box. He would show me both crayons and invite me with great kindness, “Which crayon do you want? I am using the orange one.” I would stare stupefied at the lone brown crayon, my only option, and I would wonder how he could view that option as if he were doing me a favor. There WAS no real choice! However, if I wanted to color with Matthew, using the brown crayon was clearly my only option. This happened repeatedly to my husband and to me over the course of a few months, and I began to suspect that God was giving me a spiritual lesson.
In Isaiah 43:19, God declares that He “will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Of course, that sounds like (and it IS) a great promise, but have you ever wondered why you have to be in the wilderness to see the road? Why do we have to be in the desert to find the river? It’s analogous to the brown crayon… if we had a wide array of options, we probably would have trouble figuring out which was the right one! I often cry out to God and beg Him to show me the right road, the right place, the right direction. At least, if I am in the middle of a wilderness, there is no confusion about which option is the best! In the wilderness, the contrast is huge between the dry places and the river. The roads in the wilderness are few and are thereby far easier to discern than the roads in the crowded city of my heart in the land of abundance. We can indeed praise God for His Presence in the barren places. It is there in the silence that He allows His voice to be heard, His direction to be made evident, and His refreshing to be manifestly available. Moses met Him in the wilderness in the form of a burning bush. The Israelites met Him there in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. After Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit used the wilderness to equip Him to combat the evil one on our behalf. The wilderness may not look inviting, but God’s direction and provision there are guaranteed. The brown crayon may be our only choice, but it can be the key to fellowship with our Father. Take it and find it unlocks the many facets of His presence!