WHAT DOES ONE DO IN A DESERT?
I have been stuck. I am in a desert. I have gotten lost in the gorge. I have forgotten to be in the moment where my feet are. I have lost sight of the end of the tunnel. Or I have gotten so trapped in the cave that I think that’s all there is. I keep putting my sights on the other end of the tunnel that all I do is dream of the moment when I get out.
On Wednesday, even though my son warned me not to, I asked my Coach again if I was ever going to get better. I think I ask this same question weekly. Why? Because it is what keeps me up at night.
Well, my feet keep me up, so it’s only natural that I think about this never ending subject, right? I am realizing that it is not very productive. Just because I am up does not give me license to worry. Just because my feet cry out in pain does not mean I can wallow in the pain of self-pity. Sounds easy to say, but there are times in the wee sma’s when it is very hard to do when it's the fourth or fifth night in a row of very little sleep.
But, I am talking about the desert, not the night, nevertheless, I believe there is much activity in each of these places, movement of all kinds. Things are awake!
A long time ago, back when I was on staff in Children’s Ministry at our former church, I would lead a program called Thrilling Thursdays. It was during the summer and I would do field trips with the children. I was young, recently married and did not have children. The perfect candidate to take other children all over the place. I was the only one crazy enough to do it! And the parents let me take their children everywhere. After a few of such trips, I started calling these days, Killing Thursdays, because I got so wiped out. But I did love spending the time with the children. Oh, by the way - I usually had about 80 of them. Parents sprinkled here and there, but those children were my responsibility. Yikes. I was young and naïve. Good thing.
On one such trip we went to a museum in the desert. I had never done such a thing and it looked like a lot of fun. Mind you, it was summer when we did this trip, so we went early and got out of there by lunch.
Did you know that much activity happens in the desert, especially in the early morning and at night? A LOT. That is when the desert comes alive. Movement. Activity. Running. Feeding. Growth.
WAIT. That word just slipped out of my hands on this ol’ computer.
Yes, growth happens in a desert.
Look at Elijah hiding by Cherith Brook being fed by ravens. He was there a while. He went there out of obedience to God. And, God instructed these unclean birds to feed him every day, twice a day. We do not have a record of what Elijah did, thought, or did not do. But, we see the results of that desert at Mt. Carmel.
Then the LORD said to Elijah, "Go to the east and hide by Cherith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 1 Kings 17:3
So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Cherith Brook, east of the Jordan. 1 Kings 17:5
Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, proved today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command. O LORD answer me! Answer me so that these people will know that You, O LORD, are God and that You have brought them back to Yourself. 1 Kings 18:36-37
Talk about BOLD. His time in the desert equipped with bold faith and strong convictions. Or, what about the Israelites in the desert? They wandered around for 40 years. They really did not have to be there that long, but because of their complaining and disobedience, they were. I am glad their experience is in the Bible because it shows that not everyone is perfect. And Moses. He spent 40 years as a shepherd in a desert, then he had another go of desert living leading God’s chosen stubborn people for forty more years.
Moses was very busy in the desert. Tending sheep - the animal kind and people. Receiving the Law from God Himself, twice. Listening to the people complain about food, water, and on and on. He saw God in a burning bush, lead by day and night in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. WOW. Awesome.
At this desert museum, for all intents and purposes it looked barren. Same color brown. Same types of rocks. No oasis of water. No luscious trees. No cutesy animals. Dry. Hot. Cracked. Parched. Desert. Exactly what the word implies.
But there was an entire ecosystem right before my eyes. It was just different from what I was used to. Once I started looking, it came alive. I saw the activity. I saw LIFE. A tiny flower imbedded in a crevice of the dry cracked ground. Or I heard the tiny feet of the mice. Lizards were in abundance and scurrying everywhere. The smell of this place was unforgettable. Raw, actually. Very different. And I smelled it again when my husband and another couple and I were in Death Valley last year. Sun scorched land radiates.
It was when I took the time to STOP did I notice this life, hear the sounds of life and smell desert smells of life. It was not that obvious at first glance. I had to be there for a while. But then. Wham. My eyes adjusted and I saw life and activity everywhere.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
When I take the time to be still, I can see. When I stop, look and listen, I KNOW God. Because, my heart is on hyper-alert. My eyes are looking at Him for direction. My mind is staid upon Jehovah.
I admit, it is hard to be introspective when one is in a desert. Frankly, all I want to do is GET OUT of the desert. I am not a lizard after all. It’s hot and gets hotter. It’s dry. It’s barren – or so I thought. It’s lonely. Flat. Sandy. Dusty. Rocky. Barren to the eye. And it stretches on for miles and miles. Not a pretty picture, to some.
But, if I choose to be still and look at the desert, I will see something. I will see the hand of God holding mine. I will see places where I was fed by ravens – the very Bread of life. Jesus Himself. I will also remember the water from the well – Jesus. My living water. I will also recount places of my deep pain and affliction. I can remember the feel of every rock at that place. I can also hear the cry of my heart again, but also the worship to God. The One and Only true God. I can find the place where I had lain prostrate before my God in utter abandonment. Oh that place was sweet and is still sweet in my memory.
I would really rather not be in my desert for 40 years because of complaining and disobedience. I think I need to take a lesson in that. I confess that I have done my fair share of this. Both of these, actually. Lord, I confess, and I ask that You would clean my heart, and I will be clean. Create in me a NEW heart.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. Philippians 4:11
Not always looking for the way out, the short cut, the tree to hid under or a way of escape. I will allow this season of desert to mold and shape me into the woman that God wants me to be. One who has been in the desert, the valley, the affliction, and the one who is ready for Mt. Carmel. Come what may.