Hi, this is Marilyn! I'm in the desert this week. Literally in the desert with my family on vacation. I love the desert, which is a funny thing for someone who grew up by the Atlantic Ocean and who now lives by the Pacific Ocean to say.
What I love about the desert are the sharp, craggy mountains rising from the vast, flat plain, the watercolor sunsets, the black sky at night dotted with thousands of glittery stars. I love the plants in the desert, which at first glance all look the same but on closer inspection, are varied and beautiful. I love that I have to move slowly in the desert because of the heat (there's hardly a choice). I love that the vast, seemingly empty spaces make my mind clearer and cleaner, as if it wants to mirror what my eyes see. My heart and soul follow, and become peaceful and uncluttered and focused. In the desert I feel closer to God.
Have you heard that expression about having "a desert experience"? When people say that, they're referring to the long time (40 years) that God kept the Israelites in the desert after they fled slavery in Egypt. He provided shelter, water, and food (manna from heaven every day). God wanted the people to know him and obey him and love him before he led them into the Promised Land. Some of them learned that lesson, and others simply complained. Some wanted to go back to Egypt where, even though enslaved, they were surrounded by familiar and comfortable things and routines.
Today, when people talk about a desert experience, they usually mean a difficult time, a time apart from God when their souls feel unproductive, dry, and dead. Have you ever had a desert experience, when you felt that God was far away from you and the thirst of your spirit wasn't being refreshed? Maybe something happened between you and your best friend, or school is harder than it's ever been. Maybe something painful is going on in your family. You begin to wonder where God went and why he sent you out into the desert.
The next time this happens, remember that God led the Israelites to the desert for a reason. He leads us there today, too. But, just like he did with the Israelites, he doesn't abandon us there. The best thing to do when you're in the desert is pray, asking God why you might be there and what he wants you to understand. Remember that in the desert (the literal and figurative one), there aren't as many distractions, and that helps you focus on what's important and pay attention to what you see and hear and feel.
The Israelites didn't stay in the desert forever. God led them out when it was time. He will lead you, too, out of the desert.
God bless you!