These are the days that try men’s souls (women’s too). In fact, this woman is tiring of the desert trek that has gone on since last July. Today marks eight months since I was told cancer had returned. But in looking at what I just typed – eight months – that is such a pittance compared to the Israelites of ages past who wandered for forty YEARS in the desert.
Furthermore, who am I to complain about the (comparatively short) length of this journey as I sit here this week reading Joni Eareckson Tada’s latest book telling of new chronic pain after forty YEARS in her wheelchair. Taken in that perspective, my latest challenge could be considered ‘brief.’ What is not brief, however, is that these last eight months come at the end of a twenty-one year journey that has reshaped my life. One can live a long time in the desert. Just ask the Israelites…but since they aren’t readily available, you get me.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned in the desert. No one gets an education overnight. Given that we schlep along for a very long while, all that sand provides a useful chalkboard for the Lord to teach us what He knows we need – both for making our way through the desert and for moving forward into the fullness of His plan and purpose for our life.
Currently, I’m sitting here on a decidedly drippy day in March, getting grumpy about not being able to yet ‘move forward’ with life like I want to! Though restricted by pain, no lifting, needing to heal, and what I can’t do, I preached to myself about finding what I could do. I determined a re-focus was in order. Necessary is more like it.
Blessedly for me, David experienced some desert days of his own and left a brilliant insight for me to discover this afternoon in one of his beloved psalms:
Sing to God, sing praise to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides in the deserts, by His name Jehovah; yea, exult in His presence. Psalm 68:4 (Literal Version)
Many of us are familiar with this verse recited as “…Him who rides on the clouds…” (and we can probably hum the matching tune). But would you look at that? The literal version means “…Him who rides in the DESERTS…” That blesses the dusty sandals right off my feet!
The practical type might say to me, “Well, duh, Nanc. You KNOW God says He’s always with you.” The philosophical type might chime in with, “Clouds or deserts, dear Grace, God is the Omnipresent One.” And I can hear John Wayne’s drawl right now, “Wa-l-l-l shucks, little lady, the Posse just rode into town.”
I think I like the cowboy version the best.
It does my heart good to know that not only does the Holy One of Israel (and of my life) sit astride His cloud-shaped stallion and ride in the wilderness, but He rode into my desert town just for me today. He knows every dune and desert trail of my journey. He knows it gets cold at night and hot in the day. He’s fully aware of lurking dangers, yet none of these phases Him. Instead, He uses it all to instruct and teach those life lessons he’s designed for each of us – if we will re-focus and become pupils at Jehovah’s feet asking, “What do You want me to learn in/through/from/because of this?”
Some days we will be avid learners. Other days we’ll tire of yet another Monday morning that looks like last Monday morning, and the Monday morning before that. But this I can testify to…on those dusty, thirsty days when we need it most,
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. Isaiah 35:6b,7a (NIV)
That sure does a parched Wellspring good.
Writing in the rain while He’s riding in the deserts watering everything in sight!