A prelude post: written by Karyn. With a transparency that reverberated such as a waterfall, lifting the veil within my own heart and soul. Thank you.
I have been pondering the rainless desert for a couple of weeks, remembering how the earth - pounded by the relentless sun - starts to fragment, the little chips of dried clay curling upward imploringly, like a prayer.
Funny how fragment and fragile can seem so connected ...
Then at night the blistering heat can be replaced by the gusty cold, winds whipping the sand into the cracks where it chafes the raw cuts and gouges deeper. This savage change in temperature is a result of the extremely low level of precipitation which doesn't provide a cushion from the heat in the day, and which also allows the heat to escape very easily in the night.
All creation groaning.
Hear the crunching of the parched land as it's trodden underfoot. Picture a thousand tiny fingers of earth being snapped by the steps of an unwitting passerby.
There are animals that inhabit the desert, timid creatures that know no other life but to scrabble for their needs, to protect themselves and those that belong to them from the elements and to keep a weather eye out for danger. Meerkats, for example, always have a couple of their number on sentry duty at any given time.
When you're in the desert you avert your eyes for fear that they will land on a mirage and you'll be given false hope. You view your surroundings through your peripheral vision because the intensity of facing them head on is too great.
And then, when you think you can go on no more - when the pain and the loneliness and the disorientation seem to have reached their nadir - you spot a tiny, flame-coloured flower, peeking shyly from amidst the scrub.
"There is unexpected beauty here," the blossom whispers to you. "In this desolate place you can find peace and restoration if you know how to look, if you know how to listen."
"But I need water!" you whimper, wringing your hands. "There's no water here!"
"I'm here," the flower responds. "There are streams in the desert in the most unlikely places. You'll come across them at the most unexpected moments. Do what you do each day. They'll be revealed to you and your frail soul will find relief."
And so you do what you do. You knit. You love your children. You create beauty with your husband and you allow yourself to accept his adoration. You minister to others through a word, a song, a hug, a tiny blue elephant. You reach out with what little strength you have left.
Your groans add to the chorus of all creation's, waiting ...
You start to delight in the minute: a tiny green shoot here, a flittering butterfly there, a small glass of water offered in His name, a sick child who sleeps through one night.
And you start to notice fine silver threads of water in some of the indentations of the earth. Not a river by any means; but after all, this is a desert and a stream is enough to sustain you when your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth. You drink greedily from the source, cupping your hand to dam the flow and scoop up enough for a mouthful.
Then with both your hands cupped together you carry some of the precious elixir to the flame-coloured flower, to the shoot which seems to have grown a little.
And you start to achieve a sort of peace, a sort of rest. The desert is becoming your abode. You wonder when it started to change, when it started to be less severe, less forbidding.
But the truth is, the desert has not changed; it is you who are learning to abide in the place in which you find yourself, you who are growing and stretching and accommodating and shrinking and contracting and setting boundaries to knit this strange beauty into the pattern of the cloak you will wrap around you for protection and for comfort.
As you journey through the desert you find that the once-feared desert in turn has become your sanctuary in this period of your life. And as you follow the trickle of water you discover that the stream will lead you through the desert to a river that swells and flows stronger with gathering force until it cascades into a mighty waterfall that thunders over the rocks and into the deep pool waiting to receive it.
And you will understand that you were not alone as you sojourned through the desert: your good shepherd was there all along, protecting and shielding you until in his perfect time he leads you beside still waters to restore your soul.