The Desert of the Soul
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
The wilderness of the solitary way: the desert, the great, vast, desert. One gasps and stutters at the imensity, at the scope: it is of horrible, wonderful beauty and fear. It is empty, for most of its great span and breadth, miles upon miles upon empty miles of dirt, sage, and stone, fading off into a dull yellow sheen over the horizion. Here and there mesas and buttes thrust up, roaring forth in a thousand shades of red and orange and sepias and purples- but at my feet there is nothing but scraggling sage and dust. The wilderness of the desert. In such we wander, and we hunger and thirst: for we find the wilderness empty. The springs are bitter and deadly; the washes and gullies are dry, or flowing with silt and filthy water. Our soul faints, we gasp, we groan, and we cry out to our Lord.
Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
He leads us, He carries us, He bears us forth: but see, we are still in the wilderness for a time, and then comes the City. This wilderness, how hard its paths are! The desert is a place of difficult travel: sand, gritting its way into eyes and flesh, raises up against us, and we must pull our cloak fast about us. We must clothe ourselves in Christ- for our torn garms cannot bear it. Down in the washes, as we plunder over the slickrock, the thunderheads rumble down, loosing a torrent into the washes and canyons. But the Living Stone, our great and immovable mesa, stands fast, and to Him we cling, and His water cleanses and refreshes us, the sweet water of the hidden desert spring, the well of life. As our strength flags climbing the clefts and crags, and our feet and hands are sore from the fierceness of the stone, He gives us Himself as sustenance, and His wounds are our balm and healing. Out upon the high flats, where the sage is thin and the rock is burning, we find that we have a tabernacle, a shelter, against the noonday heat- under Him we cast ourselves down. When night comes- how sharp and cold the night in the desert is- the pillar of fire looms above us, guiding, leading, ever onward, towards that Holy Mountain, that Holy City, which we seek.
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation
But as we follow, we find the desert blooming and flourishing. It becomes our refuge, our abode, as we abide in Him, we find the desert a place of rest. Temptation and rest both dwell here. It is a mingled place, of great beauty and great terror both, of fear and peace. The wonders of it are beyond words, for they are of Him Who is Good, and in Him this desert, this empty place, this place of death and thirst, is made whole, is made a place of healing and life, of quenched lips. So on I go, in this desert of the soul, a desert both of hardships and troubles, and of unspeakable love and utter joy.