Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Desert Life: An Introduction

"I am making a way in the desert,
And streams in the wasteland"
-Isaiah 34:19b

Often when we think of the desert we are put off by it's barrenness, it's heat. Some are frightened by it's reptilian creatures, it's sharp foliage and general unfriendly, demeanor. We've all seen the movies where people lost in the desert lose their mind because of the harsh climate: seeing mirages of water when dying of thirst.

The Bible often talks about the desert. Recently I have been reading a lot about the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. I also have been doing a lot of word study on the desert in scripture and found that often, the desert represents physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue. We see throughout God's Word that hard times often came in the desert. We read about doubt, fear, loneliness, testing, rejection, disobedience, hunger, thirst.

Matthew 4:1 tells us that Christ himself was not immune to the desert experience. It was there that he was tempted by the enemy. He knows, by experience, what the "deserts in life" can bring.

But the desert in scripture (and today) isn't all just arid, wild, barren (deadly!) land. We also read about provision, care, and refuge. The desert is where people went to hide, to pray, to learn, to seek out God.

Interwoven in that harsh exterior is unbelievable beauty. Breathtaking artistry, amazing charm. Refreshing goodness that one can experience: Rain in the desert. Spectacular sunsets. The coolness of the air when the sun finally goes to sleep. The sounds, the smells, the sights. Yes, even the solitude.

The detail in which our Creator so lovingly made the desert is amazing to me.

My Sister-in-law, (we'll call her Mrs.MooFish), had a young (newly married) couple from the east coast visiting all last week. The groom had never been to the desert before. Mrs.MooFish mentioned that she had a new appreciation for the desert while she viewed it through one who had never seen it. We talked about about a few of the amazing birds: The roadrunner and quail. We talked about the unique plant life, in particular the detail on a specific cactus: The Cholla.

The Cholla is unique for couple of reasons: First because it grows in tubercles (little round sections), so if something rubs against it it doesn't stick with one lonely needle, the whole tubercle comes off, along with it's many needles.

Secondly, the Cholla is the only cactus that has a papery sheath that covers each individual needle. There is an Old Cactus Trick, done by young desert dwelling whipper-snappers, who to try to remove this sheath while escaping the perils that come with playing with cacti. That is, without getting painfully stuck. For the record, it's very difficult to do.

Mrs. MooFish's husband, Mr. MooFish, tried his hand at this Old Cactus Trick, for the purposes of education and entertainment for his out-of-town guests. Unfortunately, his knuckles got into a fight with a cactus tubercle. The cactus won.

Therein lies the juxtaposition with the desert. In the desert we are given the opportunity to experience all the wonder it brings, and sometimes, we get stuck. Or warm. Or dehydrated. Becoming so thirsty we will believe what we see instead of what we know.

The desert holds many metaphors for life. It speaks volumes for the greatness of God.

I've always loved the desert. Maybe it's because I grew up here. But maybe, more importantly, it's because when I look at the desert and all it's beauty I see the hand of God. The God of Truth. The God of Mercy. The sovereign God who has a purpose, even among all those crazy plants that bite. Living in the Sonoran Desert reminds me that in the Deserts of Life I can trust Him. Always.

I can trust Him when I am comfortably gazing at a sunset, cool drink in hand, or when I feel lost and thirsty, and begin to eat the sand I've confused as water. I can trust Him (and learn) when I play with cacti and lose.

The desert points me to God, the creator of all things, and reminds me that He has a provided a way. It may not always look like I want it to, but it's there.

And that is my purpose as I start writing about The Desert Life in the months to come.

Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say 'Thank you!'
—the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.
(Isaiah 43:19)
The Message


dcrmom said...

Very interesting. You know, I am an East coast gal. I've lived here all my life. I've vacationed here all my life, with the exception of a lake in Minnesota and one trip to CA in highschool. So when hubby got to go to Arizona on business and invited me along, I was all, why the heck would I want to go to a hot, dry, flat desert?

Well, guess what? I fell in LOVE with Arizona. I'd live there in a heartbeat. It's GORGEOUS. It's not all just dry and orange as I'd pictured. And the cacti are breathtaking.

Anyway, I really like your take on the desert life!

meh said...


the desert IS beautiful!! And I love that passage in Is. 43. It gives me butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of excitement to see what God will do next. It is such an incredible adventure following Him! Great blog today!