My eighth grade English teacher explained the assignment: choose and research a topic of interest to the class, then present the information in a speech. I chose “Cacti of the American Southwest,” but my grade suffered due to my choice of subject. I learned that most thirteen-year-old boys would much rather hear about Volkswagen Beetles than saguaro cacti and that many of the girls were more interested in make-up than the range of the Joshua tree. Who knew?
Cacti may have been an odd-ball choice, but I thought they were interesting. My grandmothers had cacti among their houseplants, and I had enjoyed seeing their infrequent blooms. My father’s mother kept a very tall variety, moving it from hot, summer sun to their cold basement in winter, trying to replicate the conditions of its desert origins and bring it into bloom.
I also learned that my assumption that all deserts were hot and that all cacti lived in dry climates were incorrect. In simplest terms, a desert is a place with less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of precipitation per year, which includes Antarctica as well as the Sahara. Deserts can be stark, wind-blown dunes or complex eco-systems with a variety of plants and animals.
The word “desert” comes from a Latin verb that means “to abandon or forsake.” Deserts (unless man has intervened by bringing in water and electricity) are landscapes where few live. They are forsaken by people.
In our life as a Christian, sometimes we walk through green valleys, where we sense God’s presence everywhere. However, there are times when we’re in a spiritual desert, feeling disconnected from God. We slog through the sand dunes or are raked by cactus spines. The few inches of rainfall seem insufficient.
We may feel God has abandoned or forsaken us.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 NIV
Don’t give up. Have hope! It might take a while to hike to the other side of the desert.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . , for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
As we walk, we have choices to make.
We can grumble,
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Exodus 16:2 NIV
or we can be patient, expectant, and after years of “tending sheep” . . . be amazed.
After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Acts 7:30,31 NIV
Sometimes we need to be in a dry place that will encourage buds to set (like my Thanksgiving cactus). The places God leads us, they prepare us.
Sometimes we need a little time in the cold, dark basement to begin the blooming process. The times that are difficult, they strengthen us.
It’s worth the wait, though, worth the desert walk to see a burning bush.
Take off your shoes. Shake out the sand. You’re on holy ground.
linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee