Sometimes I think about the privileged ones in God’s story. The ones called out into the desert, like Abraham, Moses, even Jesus. The desert was brutal. Not a place or an experience they would have chosen.
It was also beautiful. They met angels there. They met God himself there.
There are others, too. Like Hagar. Hagar knew desolation in the desert, but it was also there that she discovered the intimacy and the peace of being seen. “You are the God who sees me,” she said. “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
To follow God into the desert is to turn your back on ordinary life. To trade comfort for something much harder and much better.
I know this, but why do I also know that I don’t want to hear that call? Shouldn’t I be willing not only to follow but to run toward the God of the desert?
I’ve had these lyrics bubbling up in my mind for days:
When we were young
We walked where we wanted to
Life was ours
And now we’re old
We go where we’re told
The Lord’s Spirit calls
Follow my road to sorrow and joy.
(from “Desert Father” by Josh Garrels)
We left Chicago two years ago to follow that singing voice into the desert. I hoped for joy, but found, mostly, sorrow.
I’m not sure I would have followed had I known.
I’m glad I didn’t know, because we never do look far enough ahead.
I would have seen loss. I would have seen loneliness, and I would have stopped looking, turned my back, and walked the other way. I’m sure of it.
I would have turned my back on the road that would carry me through the loss, through the loneliness and toward …
Another daughter. A gift and a blessing I was sure would never be mine. I was sure, and I was wrong.
Now I pray, with hope and joy, the final words of “Desert Father.” I pray them for myself. I pray them for you:
Who wait by the blue shores
To part the water
Show us a new way
The impossible dream
Through the deep and the unseen
Carry us home.