Into the Desert

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I must say that I had one of the best Ash Wednesdays ever. Aside from the non-stop phone calls at work in which all I really had to do was answer with, “9, noon and 6,” I have really loved these few days.

My faith has been a gift for a long time – and make no mistake, faith is indeed a gift, and I am always grateful for it. That said, I have come to truly and deeply fall in love with God and God’s people even more through my work.

There is so much crazy diversity in my world,  I do love it, even when it frustrates me to no end. And it pretty much frustrates me to no end all the time. I will write more about that another day however… today is a day for the desert.

Ash Wednesday is our invitation into the desert. I have always loved the desert, at least in my mind. In 1985 I went to Arizona for the first time (business trip) and Scottsdale was not the developed place that it is now. My co-worker and I went for a walk… in the middle of the day and the day was running at about 115 degrees farenheit. No, I am not kidding.

We were walking along the road and I was astounded by how many plants and how much life was present. I was also aware of how hot, drained and sick I felt. I did not want to say anything; I guess I did not want to look like a wimp.

In any case, a man came along in a shuttle bus that took people to a local shopping area, which was where we were headed. He was very kind and wanted to help us, he kept asking us to get in and we both protested. We were so hot and tired and eventually yielded to him. He brought us to the shopping area and urged us to get something to drink and to rest. We had iced tea and I can still taste it if I allow myself to drift back there. Iced tea has never tasted the same since, it can’t be recreated. As it turned out, we had both felt ill while walking, but neither one of us would admit it until after the ride and the iced tea.

That is the desert for you – it makes you weak and you have to rely on someone for help and you are ashamed to let go and do so. It strips your facade, your ego away and introduces you to the dehydrated, weak and head-achey person that we don’t want to admit to being. And Jesus is the kindly and persistent shuttle driver who wants to offer us a lift and some refreshment. And Jesus also knows that we have to be driven to the edge of desperation before we respond. He waits – it is not some cruel joke; it is clear that we are the ones who resist. He just waits. And waits. And waits.

Now I go into the desert differently. I still like the flowers and plants, the animals that scurry over rocky surfaces like phantoms that I can barely perceive. The baking-hot heat envelops me and at first it lulls me into a dream-like state. However, the dryness persists and the heat burns and my head begins to hurt and I need water and a lift.

It is then that I must traverse some sandy ground in which my every untruth is revealed. Ouch, my foot steps on the hot sand of my lies. Argghhhh, my other foot stumbles upon my anger. It is painful to encounter the sands of my indifference which rise up like a dune in the blazing sunlight.

Into the desert I go again, ashy head about to explode with an exquisite pain only known to those severely dehydrated. Each grain of sand mocks yet invites me. And tenderly I step out and into this hostile place that will help to redeem me.


14 thoughts on “Into the Desert

  1. Oh my goodness Fran. You bring me to tears again, with this especially: "And Jesus also knows that we have to be driven to the edge of desperation before we respond. He waits – it is not some cruel joke; it is clear that we are the ones who resist. He just waits. And waits. And waits."I've been strangely emotional. It could be the coming out of a migraine…that is happening to me now. But even in the midst of my pain, I went to Church yesterday (I made it!) and was on the verge of tears throughout, and felt a foreign type of elation all day. Even with that hot poker in my right eye, even with the noise of life…perhaps it's because I'm really taking this journey for the first time. I feel completely unworthy, but entirely loved.


  2. Oh do I EVER know that "Me? I'm JUST FINE!!!!" bit….Thank you for sharing that story, Fran. It's the perfect beginning to Lent, and reminds me to think about my pride and how it gets in the way of safety and can be the roadblock to joy.Love,Doxy


  3. I must admit to a smile at the Arizona story. Joe hails from Phoenix, and he'd be the first to say "of course that driver was insistent on picking you up!" He tells me it is illegal for a restaurant to deny anyone water in Arizona. Oh, he'd have a chuckle at that, indeed. 😀


  4. Beautiful post, Fran. Many thanks – and "tenderly I (too) step out and into this hostile place that will help to redeem me".May your desert experience be rich in blessings.


  5. Oh my, Fran! You're going deep into the desert, indeed.For you to pray as you go into the desert. Perhaps you've already prayed the prayer. Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three. Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.


  6. Thank you all for your encouraging and beautiful commments. Grandmere – that is so beautiful!!And @Autumn Joy, I did not realize that was you at first. So grateful to see your comment.


  7. Dear Fran,How very beautiful and profound. Faith is a gift to you and to us, and you are a gift to us with your insight and eloquent writing. How well you have put it. The images you use will stay with me.Thanks to the rest of you too for your comments. Mimi, that prayer has been calling to me for weeks. Thanks for bringing me back into it. It will travel with me this Lent. Paul, love those images!Gratefully, with love always,Jane


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