I've been listening to a Christian podcast since the beginning of the year and the theme recently has been the desert. There are tons of stories and imagery in the Bible that derive from this foreboding environment. I've spent the last few weeks listening, learning a lot, and pondering the desert in new ways. I also came to realize that I'm in a spiritual desert myself.
The podcast goes into great depth in analyzing different characteristics of the Biblical desert, which I won't do here (I'll add a link below for those interested in checking out the podcast).
One thing that really spoke to me, though is the need for respite during a desert trek. When there is only direct sun and torturous heat, people simply can't survive. Those who travel through the desert for days, weeks and even months can do so by catching their breath and resting in a sliver of shade.
Trees in the desert are often quite small, leafless and gnarly. They're a far-cry from an oak tree or a weeping willow. While the rare oasis does exist, most often shade is found under a prickly bush much smaller than your average adult.
Imagining myself as that prickly bush or cactus gives me comfort. When I'm in the desert, I'm not luscious green or generously endowed with the fruit of the Spirit. I am prickly. I am barren. I am dry. But I can still be a place of respite for a fellow weary traveler.
Today I spent some time visiting a sick friend. I brought her a homecooked meal and sat listening to her heart's cry. I didn't heal her or fix her financial woes. I couldn't lift her out of the desert that she's in, but for an hour or two I gave her a bit of a reprieve from the elements that have beat her down.
We shared stories of our desert times; stories of isolation and pain, weakness and need. We encouraged each other to trust the process and the One who has us in His hand. Sitting under the shade of her mango tree, I felt God's presence and pleasure.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
So often, in our desert times, we feel worthless because we fall short of all the grandiose images we have of ourselves as super Christians and neighborhood heroes. In the desert, it's hard enough just to be and let the Lord stand protectively over us. But while we're at it, we should try to throw a little shade ourselves.