Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beauty in the Desert

How has your time accompanying Christ in the desert been?

On the first Sunday of Lent, we heard the gospel about how "the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert" (Mk 1:12). We were called then to follow Christ into the desert for a forty day season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, in preparation for Easter.

As I often remind my friends, I grew up in a desert. I spent my first twenty-one years in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. So, I know a thing or two about being in the desert. When we think of the desert, of course we think of aridity and heat. I'll add one more attribute that is more controversial. I think the desert is ugly. All I see as I look around are different hues of beige, some dry brush, and the occasional cactus.

There are three things, though, that I appreciate about the desert. I miss these three moments of beauty, even while living in the paradise known as Santa Barbara.

The first is the clear night sky. Wander out into the desert at night and you will find yourself surrounded by all the hosts of heaven (Ps 33[32]:6, Neh 9:6). Away from the distracting light of the city, you can peer deep into the heavens (as far as 2.5 million light-years, with the unaided eye). When there is less to look at nearby, there is more incentive to look up and take in a larger view of things.

The second moment of beauty is the arrival of a thunderstorm. I fondly remember days where we had to turn off all the electronics in the house and had nothing to do but to watch out the window with awe and wonder, as a massive thunderhead rolls in to dump heavy rain on the arid terrain. Sometimes, God makes us stop what we're doing just so we can gaze in wonder at the work He is doing in our lives.

The third moment of beauty is sunrise, when all the beige, hidden in the darkness of night, is replaced by vibrant colors. The sunrise of Easter is coming very soon. A time is coming when we can look back on our time in the desert and see it in an entirely different light.

My friend Raini is better than anyone I know at capturing the beauty of the desert. (She'd probably be the first person to object to me calling the desert ugly. You should listen to her rather than to me. She knows the desert better.) You'll notice that most of the links above are to her website. I humbly suggest that in your Lenten reflections, it might be a good idea to spend some time viewing her photos of the desert.

Holy Week is nearly upon us. Appreciate the last few moments of Lent you have left.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Thanks for a good perspective and timely reminder.
    The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins spent time in the spiritual desert. I may have mentioned these verses before: "O thou lord of life, send my roots rain."