The wind has picked up, blowing sand into my eyes. I squint, covering my brow with my sun-weathered hand. I can see Him several yards ahead, keeping a steady, confident pace. We are two days past the Pleasant Settlement.
My mind wanders back to my friends at Pleasant. Are they swimming in the quiet stream I drank of days ago? Are the children playing on the rope swing that hung from the large Oak, their mothers laughing as they prepare the evening meal beneath the tree’s shade?
Another gust of wind brings me back to the moment. I feel the beads of sweat run down my back. Sun-burnt, exhausted… still following this God-man through the barren wasteland. My feet hurt. I look down to find the blood has dried between my toes. I long to rest them once again. I’m tired of these calluses that remind me of this difficult journey. A woman wasn’t built to travel such a distance. My heart longs to settle… to make a home… to have a family.
I can still hear the children giggling and see their eyes glitter with delight as they chase the lambs through the lush grass.
Pleasant seemed good enough.
But He said we needed to continue onto the Land of Promise.
That’s where we are going.
It sounds spectacular! A land flowing with milk and honey. A place of beauty and abundance the likes of which I have never seen. A place where I will be fulfill my destiny.
But I never knew it would take this long…
We arrived at Pleasant a few weeks ago. I was tired and needed to rest. I quickly grew fond of the place and the people. I knew it wasn’t what He had described, but I secretly hoped it would be good enough. I just long for this journey to end!
I can still hear the crackling of the campfire the night He told me we must be moving on. Pleasant was not the Land of Promise. My cheeks burned with sadness and my heart winced with pain.
I looked off into the distance as He continued to talk, reminding me of His plans and promises. I touched my feet as though consoling them. These calluses would have to be built up again.
A tear streamed down my face as I lost myself, staring into the nothingness of the desert that lay ahead. The indefinite amount of time of this journey overwhelmed me. He wiped the tear from my face and said gently that He would be enough… and He would be with me.
His touch aroused fresh courage in my soul… enough to grab a hold of the dream of the Land of Promise once again.
“We must leave at daylight.” I told Him. “There is no time to be wasted. My heart cannot be trusted to linger here another day… for it might fall in love with Pleasant and forget the Land of Promise.”
His smile was filled with pride and it made my heart swell.
So here I am again. Following Him. He has slowed down His pace for me. My heart is solemn. Believing that this desert will actually come to an end one day takes great faith. Great faith that without His constant encouragement… I do not have.
I look upon the back of the one I love and remember how He has cared for me. He refuses to let me settle before He delivers me His promise. This journey was His idea. I remember the day He chose me to be the heir of His Land of Promise! Why would a God-man choose such a lowly servant like me? I was so honored… completely floored and humbled by the offer. How could I say no!?! But I never imagined there would be so much suffering involved in this journey. Nor did I ever imagine how much wisdom, power, strength and comfort would flow from the hands of this God-man to help me along the way.
I have had so many moments of doubting Him. In fact, on multiple occasions I quit following Him and tried to find my own shortcuts to get out of this desert. I always ended up in a heap of trouble, near utter destruction. But He always came to find me. He would tend to my wounds, nurse me back to health and encourage my soul until I was strong enough to continue the journey. I have come to realize… He wants me to get to the destination MORE than I do!
I could’ve been happy to settle by that little stream in Pleasant. It was nice enough and beats desert camping! But when He said no… I knew He meant it. And I’ve come to learn, He’s much to stubborn to argue with and my reasoning is no match for His knowledge. He’s focused on something that I cannot sway Him from. And He knows how to pique my intrigue just enough to cause me to salivate with excitement for what lies ahead. How can one stay settled when you sleep next to a dreamer every night?
One thing I do love about this desert is the night sky. A symphony of stars littering the black canvas sing a mysterious melody that calls out to something deep inside of me. At first I didn’t hear it. But He taught me how to listen. Before long, I was reborn as I began to hear the heartbeat of the Creator call out to me through the wonder of His creation. Deep calling to deep. Under the stars I heard Him whisper to me promises… hope… vision… life… FUTURE. Dreams were born on the soil of my empty soul. They have grown into ideas that are taking over my life. You see… I cannot settle for Pleasant. The Land of Promise is already INSIDE of me.
This desert. Oh this desert. I despised this desert for so long. Yet now it is so familiar, I find it oddly comfortable. I still hate when the wind kicks up sand into my eyes. I still hate the scorpions and the snakes. I still find cactuses’ needles a unnecessary frustration to a source of water. But there is a stillness in this emptiness. It’s a stillness that surrounds me and finds it’s way inside of me when I embrace my lack of control. Many days my flesh fights with the elements. I want to change it. I beg God to make the sun set early or send a rain cloud. I want relief from the discomfort. I want to know HOW MUCH LONGER? I want to understand WHY we had to go this way. It feels as though we are doing circles at times. He’s God… He could blink and I would be there. But He has chosen… He has decided… and there’s no undoing what He has done.
Deep down I trust Him. Deep down I believe He is always good. And when I surrender to that belief and stop looking down at the sand or up at the dunes ahead, I find myself captivated by this God-Man who has brought me safely thus far. Not without battle wounds or scars… but I’m stronger, wiser, deeper, and somehow more than I was when this journey began.
My mind recalls all the time we have spent together… just Him and I. We have seen a lot of territory and had many conversations along the way. He teaches me how to think about things, how to maneuver through obstacles and how to be courageous in dire situations. At nights He showed me how to survive the desert cold and pointed out the constellations. I recall the first desert storm. He showed me how to make a shelter and comforted me when I was afraid. And as we walked with the sun beating down our necks, He always pointed out the beauty along the way. The first desert flower He plucked and gave to me is still tucked neatly in my book of journeys.
I was afraid to step out into this desert again. But tonight I’m finding it’s not so bad. I get to be with my Jesus without distraction. Just following Him… that’s all I’m doing. It’s not that difficult… so long as I remain humble enough to keep up. His presence is enough to satisfy my soul. His mystery enough to entice me to quicken my pace. His beauty captivates my attention and I desire to be just like Him.
In barrenness grows a beauty untold. New birth takes place on sallow ground. A soul once dark is enlightened and transformed. This desert I once hated has become the greatest gift. I still long for the Land of Promise… but I think I shall be a bit sad when we get there and things are different between me and my leader. It saddens me when I think how I have doubted him… but oh how I love Him. I don’t ever want to be apart from Him. When we are out of this desert… I wonder what it will be like. I know we will still be close. We will always share these memories… this bond. But for as long as I have with Him on this sandy trail… I shall be ever grateful. It’s just Him leading… and I am following. This desert… it isn’t actually barren. It’s the landscape of a beautiful redemption story… the blossoming relationship between God and a man. The desert… rich with new life… the necessary journey to the Land of Promise