“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” -Hosea 2:14
I never thought the desert was pretty. Growing up in Arizona, I’m not sure I knew the color green existed in nature until I was somewhere in middle school. Even now, as an adult, every time I fly into Phoenix for a visit I look out the window and all I see is a landscape that looks like someone took a brown crayon and just scribbled everywhere. It’s hot, rocky, full of cacti (which I have fallen into several times in my life) and did I mention brown?
To me, the desert was a place where things went to die, not come alive…..or so I thought.
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Three years ago my world was shattered. Coming to the realization that I had been sexually abused by an old boyfriend sent my life into a whirlwind. Everything I felt I had known of myself from those past thirteen years felt like a lie. I felt like I was a lie. The world I was living in, so rich with color and joy and life… all of the sudden…. felt bland and desolate.
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“Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.” – Antonio Machado
I had had “desert seasons” before. Moments in life where God felt far and life felt like trudging through hot sandy terrain. But this one was different. Those other wilderness ventures felt like I was just there on a visit. Like God was asking me to just take a quick pit stop, get a little sunburnt and then it was back to the cool comforts of every day life. But this time, this time felt like He wanted me to stay a while, and the thought of that scared the hell out of me.
I didn’t know how to exist in this new place God had put me. How does one live life in a place where they don’t feel alive? How can you move ahead when the road in front of you feels so unfamiliar? I was lost and looking for an oasis, a place to breathe, and all I saw was sand.
For two years I wallowed. I was mad at God for making me be in this place. For sticking me the desert and leaving me to die. Sure, there were moments where I was given a drink of water and the hope of that “better and familiar place” but it quickly passed. As days turned to weeks and then months, I slowly moved from annoyed to pissed. I had no idea who I was, who my friends were, where my life was going and if I was ever going to feel true joy again. My home was now in the desert and my spirit was dying.
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Did you know that cacti are actually the smartest plants around? Because of the climate in which they live, they are the most adaptive to surviving any type of weather. In seasons of rain, they swell and store up moisture holding in as much as they can so, in seasons of great drought, they can draw from that stored well and survive. The spikes, though painful and not always pretty are actually how they pull moisture from the air to get nutrients and fend off those that wish to attack and destroy it. The great plant of the desert is the greatest survivor. And I wanted to be just like it.
So often God asks us to come to the wilderness with Him. To the place where there is no path and the chances of survival seem slim. He brings us here not to punish us or to crush our spirits- He does it to make us come alive. Because in the desert, we have nothing but Him. He is the manna we feast on and the dew we drink. In the desert is where he shows us how strong we really are, and better yet, how strong He really is. It’s the place of no distraction except the quiet, gentle whispers of Him saying, “I love you. You can do this. I’m right here.” The desert is where I fell in love with Jesus and learned to feel alive right where I was at.
Joseph, in Genesis, was given a vision of his life at age seventeen. It took thirteen years of betrayal, slavery, jail, hatred and belittling before that vision came to pass. When that day finally arrived, Joseph didn’t raise his fist in anger at God. He didn’t say, “Screw you, why did you leave me in this place for so long?” No, instead, Joseph said that all these things had to come to pass so that he could fulfill the plan God had for him. He learned, much like myself, that the desert can be the place God uses to lead you to your dreams.
I know the wilderness can feel scary. It can seem like God has chosen to forget you and leave you for dead. But as someone who has lived here a little while longer than you, believe me when I say that is the furthest from the truth. If you let it, if you surrender yourselves to this place and the process, this desert wilderness can be the greatest gift you’ve ever been given. It can become the time you truly come alive.
Don’t be afraid my sister if you feel a bit lost. If you find yourself wandering in this strange new land uncertain of where to go and what to do next. Just take a deep breath and listen as he begins to woo you back to His heart and sets you free. And if you ever get lonely, just remember, I’m right there with you.