I close my eyes and I can feel the hot wind of The Wilderness of Judea. I can see the brutal glare of the sun glinting off of the face of Masada. I can feel the sweat trickle down my back as I hike into the holy quiet of The Wilderness of Zin. Heat radiates off ancient stones on the path to En Gedi as I run my hand along the rocks where David hid and gaze into the brilliance of the Salt Sea in the distance.
The desert calls to me, but what can I do? It is December in Tennessee and I don’t exactly have the means to hop an airplane to Israel, or even Arizona for that matter. I tried out Bikram Hot Yoga on Saturday to see if that would help. Dont’ ask me about it. I don’t have anything nice to say.
What was I thinking?
There was heat alright. Heart pounding, head shattering heat. I left exhausted instead of refreshed. Depleted, instead of renewed. Angry instead of peaceful. There was heat and struggle, but there was something missing.
I close my eyes and I am back on the path to En Gedi. The sun beats down as I adjust my hat and take a drink from the water bottle I carry everywhere I go. A few more steps and I hear the faint sound of water trickling against the rock. The sound grows stronger as I climb the path. Soon I see a small stream. Further ahead it widens and quickens. In the distance I hear the steady roar of water as the world begins to turn green around me. Then, around the bend everything is transformed as water crashes from the top of a high cliff into a deep pool in front of me.
And that is why I love the desert. The sun. The heat. The rock and sand. The fierce, barren loveliness of it all. It is because I am reminded that no matter how deep my wilderness, there is hope. No matter how dry and weary the land, an oasis awaits me. (Psalm 63:1) No matter how desperate and broken I become, I can safely sing in the shadow of God’s wings. (Psalm 63:7)
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 63:3-7)