Unpredictable. Misunderstood. Miserable. Foreign. The opposite of the ideal.
We think: Blazing sun. Burning sand. Empty horizons. No water in sight. Barren, forsaken, and deadly.
A desert is only hot during the day. In some places, down in the valley, the nightly temperature sinks so low your body is carried from one extreme to another. And they are not always empty. A lot of desert animals are nocturnal, or too small for us to take extreme notice. And plant life can be found, which means there is water–as humans we might not be able to fully to extract it–but it’s there.
Peoples and cultures all around the world make their lives in the deserts. Some of us prefer our landscape a bit greener, or wetter, or anywhere else but there. We are used to specific rainfall patterns, seasons, and food supplies…we are used to abundance. Deserts are seen as a last resort; we don’t want to be caught in one.
But we are. The earth is full of deserts-on almost every continent. Why, then, should the human life not contain something similar? We have them outside of us…we have them inside of us.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s dry. We sense little movement and find little motivation. We’re hungry and thirsty for things that grow in green fields and familiar places. But we’re stuck.
And we hit survivor mode.
We try as quickly as possible to do whatever we can to get out. We strip whatever resources we can–and use them to push us closer toward “civilization” and “safety.” We curse the rocks on which we trip, we hate the sun that burns our skin, and we fear the night and loss of the same sunlight which we once cursed.
So, why, are people leaving crowded cities and resting in the dunes? Why did the Fathers and Mothers fade from society and cling to the cactus and the rocks? Why did the Messiah wander around for 40 days without food or water?
Are these deserts good or bad? Are they barren wastelands or painted masterpieces?
How has it come to pass that we now fear the desert rather than run to it for solitude? It is true, the Christ walked the desert. The Spirit guided him through, and God the creator made the desert. And yet, it is from this place we so desperately run.
Maybe we think we should be afraid–that being in the desert means God is nowhere to be found. That we are alone. But perhaps we are afraid because God is so intricately present–and this presence overwhelms us.
May I continually run from the places the Empire calls safe and make shelter in the deserts it fears.
May I learn to discipline my heart to tune out the noise of its music and listen for the silence of your presence in every place.
May you continually guide me with your arm in a peace that surpasses understanding, that you build for me a place of rest in the desert of your heart.