Some seasons of life are full of rocks, weeds, and dust. The ‘dry’ season can line up one after another until you’re living in the ‘desert’. A lonely time of life, usually with a prolonged cycle of frustration, unproductive labor, and unrelieved weariness.
From Abraham to Jesus Christ we see a regular pattern in the bible of the literal and metaphorical idea of ‘desert’ and famine, of isolation and wilderness. Each man or woman of God being inducted into the desert school of Holiness.
For me, the desert was a place of beauty and suffering. A place of great extremes, searing heat without shade in the day, followed by plunging shadows and near freezing cold in the night.
The danger of the desert is the absence of water. Exposure to heat and cold, searing sun and shivering nights leave you worn out, desperate for moisture and some safe place to hide… only there isn’t any. For travelers in the old west of America, learning the water holes and hidden reservoirs were the only way settlers could cross the vast stretches of dust and rock and survive. Spiritually we face a similar challenge as those early settlers. We have to learn to find water to survive.
My life… your life, each are composed of seasons. Some of our journey is full of abundant and fertile, filled with freshness and new life. Other seasons are stormy with turbulent changes and tragic transitions, wild and unpredictable like the spring… you get the idea.
The season of life I had been walking through in the past seven or eight years had been quite dry. Hard labor with little tangible result. Day after week, week after month, month after year, serving without reward or visible change in my circumstances or life. Discouragement becomes frustration, frustration becomes bitterness, … and then resignation sets in.
This is the Desert.
Our souls are so thirsty. We long for more… we crave affirmation, we want to see some life growing, a hint of green in a sea of brown.
My recent (March ’18) road trip revival was taking me through the literal desert to show me a metaphorical truth. Circumstances and conditions have been very dry in my life, no matter what I did or how hard I worked, nothing ‘seemed‘ to change. But God wasn’t absent, I was simply learning in a special school of faith. Common to every believer who has ever chosen to be a Pilgrim… committed to stay on the path of faith.
I wasn’t alone, millions of others have walked the pilgrimage of faith. Millions have faced this desert of the soul, and millions had been brought through the desert to see the life on the other side! The Exodus of the Israelites is a prime example.
But today I sensed something new and exciting for my life… Rain was coming. My life wasn’t dried up and my work wasn’t done. God had things to do in and through me. He set me on a path to San Luis, CO. Which is nowhere. It is the ‘oldest’ existing town in Colorado, 645 people and the county seat. On the edge of nothing, it has a unique Catholic mission on a high mesa overlooking the small town. There is a rocky path that winds up the side of the mesa, leading to a white adobe church, and along its trail are the Stations of the Cross. Cut in bronze sculpture, these stations are at approx 8,000 feet in elevation and the experience of walking the winding path will catch your breath in every way.
As I drove to San Luis… I remembered something I heard from God when first visiting here years before… He had put me on a “pilgrimage“…. my life in Him and the ministry of being a pastor/priest wasn’t going to be a quick trip, but a long and difficult journey. Here I was coming back to the same exact spot, nine years later and decades wiser… it had all become true. Ministry and life had proven the point. But now I needed some water for my soul. I was tired and dry inside.
And as I drove, I saw something I’ve never seen before out here… “Rain”. It was raining in the desert! A large rainstorm was sweeping across the barren landscape and it was beautiful to behold!
Driving rain washed over my car and the road, consuming the dust and dirt…covering the arid landscape in a haze of grey moisture and as it cascaded down, it was releasing the most amazing smells of sage and juniper, pinon and pine… it was amazing! A sweet and inspiring fragrance was covering the entire region and it felt like the countryside was celebrating with God for the long-awaited promise of water. The dry was gone.
Was all of this a Foreshadowing for me….? I choose to believe so.
When you roadtrip with God, nothing is an accident. No detail is a coincidence. He’s talking all the time, it’s the listening and observing that extends the conversation.
For many, the desert of life has been our most recent address, the idea of rain is a long distant hope we’ve forgotten. My encouragement to you dear reader…, the rain is coming. God isn’t leaving you to wither up and die, He’s coming with new life. Hang in there. The desert isn’t forever, the seasons do change, God is active and involved in your life no matter how little you see or sense.
Remember that intimacy is gained and power is released as we wander through the desert seasons of our life.
God’s word shows us the pattern of preparation that each suffering servant endures, the school of the desert is for our growth not our punishment. It’s in the desert that we learn to dig a deeper well… it’s in the desert that we learn to be still. It’s in the desert that we unload the junk of our lives… leaving the unnecessary weight behind. It’s in the desert that we are transformed!
Think I’m crazy… check out the Prophet Isaiah… he wrote about 3000 years ago. 🙂
Snow in the mountains is tomorrow, my last day on sabbatical.