Deserts are, by definition, dry, barren places. But I have a heightened sense of awe for these desolate places that provide never-ending surface area for the sun to burn and little obstruction for mile-upon-mile viewing. I have learned to see color and provision beyond my own doing. Sage, more lovely, more hardy than any handful of roses. Cactus, that stand with tried resilience and boast more greens than this girl can handle. Rust reds below my boots that make a sound with each step, promising me that its grip is sure; it won’t let me slip. I am on holy ground in this barren place, because it is where I discover God’s most creative gifts and sustaining presence, and a lesson in everything I once saw as pain. A reminder.
The Feast of Booths is a Jewish pilgrimage festival celebrated each year in the Fall. It’s one of the most joyous, beautiful gatherings during harvest that traditionally requires everyone to make tents (booths) and live in for the duration of the feast (8 days). It commemorates a time when, over 3400 years ago, Israel wandered in the wilderness, living in temporary shelters, and surviving solely at the mercy and provision of God. Manna, water, sandals and clothes for 40 years, none of which could have been packed in or sustained themselves. Every year, they remember the One who truly blooms color in the desert, provides the rain and harvest, fights their enemies and provides protection in their exposed state.
The wilderness takes our breath, our strength, and even our sense of direction and places it out of reach, like a mirage. But the Artist of the desert has a jaw-dropping palette of sustaining hope that He still brings. And this we trust. By His goodness, the place of mourning is made into a place of springs. Suffering does not have the last word. God does. And one day, a Promised Land.
"Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early Autumn rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, until each appears before God in Zion.” (Psalm 84:6-7)