“The spiritual function of fierce terrain…is to bring us to the end of ourselves, to the abandonment of language and the relinquishment of ego. A vast expanse of jagged stone, desert sand, and towering thunderheads has a way of challenging all the mental constructs in which we are tempted to take comfort and pride, thinking we have captured the divine. The things that ignore us save us in the end.”~ Belden Lane in THE SOLACE OF FIERCE LANDSCAPES (buy it on Amazon, it’s worth it)
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3
“Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word “glory” a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one.” C.S. Lewis
A person can have a profound encounter with God anywhere, because God is everywhere; but my time in the desert taught me something I don’t think I could have learned any other way. There is a quiet majesty and power there that speaks in the silence. There is a holiness in the sudden rain that comes after the merciless scorching heat of the summer. That rain feels like grace.
The extremity of its character alone simutaneously punishes and rewards like the pillar of smoke and fire God showed up in while guiding the Israelites through the desert. It says, like God, “Keep your eyes on me and you will get through this and reach the promised land. Take your eyes off the trail to your own destruction.”
The desert is just that drastic and following the rules leads to life or death too. In order to live in the desert, you have to obey some very simple rules:
Never find yourself without water.
Know which snakes and insects are poisonous and which ones are harmless.
If you get stuck in the middle of a dust storm while driving turn your headlights off.
The vastness and stark beauty of it makes one feel very small and vulnerable in a way similar to being in the ocean where you can’t see land. Or caught in a thunderstorm in the Sierras. You wonder how any species could survive, plant or animal, yet somehow they do. The quail lead their microscopic chicks straight out of the nest and along the rocky ground. Sometimes they start with ten and end up with three.
And in the summer it feels like a place of death. You run from one building to the next, you look for the one shady spot someone just pulled out of. And summer seems to last forever. And then one morning in November you are rewarded with coolness and it’s like being born again.
I believe there is a reason for the wandering in the desert and not anywhere else. The harsh landscape makes it easier to know you depend solely on Him, and that goes for physical wandering and also the other kind; when you’re wandering in the “dry spells and deserts of life.”
But there is always hope in every kind of desert you may find yourself in. That in time, He will bring you to the other side. The cactus wil bloom again, life will appear where there was none. You will feel the cool breeze once again and know that you have made it through.