Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Desert

Joel in Canyonlands National Park
For five years I have taught the youth that the desert is the place where God's people have purged themselves of culture. 

When Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt it was all part of God's purpose to protect them in the desert for 40 years. It takes 3-4 generations to dissolve old behaviors and thinking out of a culture of people. And boy, they needed it, for they had adopted much culture from Egypt. 

I believe this. 

I visited the desert.

Me in Death Valley National Park (dunes)

 Two years ago, Joel and I began the epic adventure of visiting America's most prized and incredible offerings- the national parks. The first desert I ever encountered was the most deserty desert of them all. We camped in Death Valley National Park.
It turns out that our drive into the park became the most memorable of my life.
Joel and me in the "badlands" of Death Valley

 Civilization was nowhere to be found while I cruised down an empty desert road at 90 miles an hour.
  The exhilaration of driving that fast, being so far from anything that resembled a place we could stop for gas or to get water, coupled the creeping fear that we might be lost, was too much for me handle. There was really only one thing to do- I just slammed my foot on the gas and cackled into the wind! Joel and I became intoxicated with our first shot of absolute freedom.

Me having a Lion King moment over Lake Powell (Utah)
 It felt like insatiable, joyful, madness. 

When we finally saw a small sign pointing us into the park the scenery didn't change. We were literally in the middle of nowhere and it was the most stunning "nowhere" that I have ever seen. 

Everything I thought I knew about myself seemed to be blowing in the wind like the grains of sand that were burying themselves in my tangled hair. 

Joel in the dunes at Death Valley

 I love green! I love trees! I love water! I love being with people! In fact, every personality test I have ever taken has dubbed me the most extroverted a person could be, but here, I was completely alive in the solitude.

I was ravenous for it. 

I took this of Landscape Arch in Arches National Park
Very often, Joel and I would just succumb to the silence. 

On a drive through the desert or on hikes we would speak very little to one another. The quiet was overwhelming. 

Sometimes, we'd stop each other from walking just to mute the crunching of our feet on the rocks. That sound was the only sound we could hear, so it seemed decibels louder than it must have been. When it stopped we were left to the brush on the wind on our faces and the hum of our own damaged ear drums.
Me in Bryce Canyon (Utah)

Delicate Arch in Arches
 We climbed an obscure and difficult cliff to look out over the "badlands" which is full of salt and is the lowest elevation in our country. 

As soon as I reached the cliffs edge, my soul burst into motion. I could literally feel my spirit leaping inside my chest, dancing, rejoicing, laughing, reaching...reaching...reaching!

God was in this place. Quiet, overwhelming, right inside me, God.
When Colorado turns to Utah

 Since then, we have visited many desert lands and many more national parks. I can honestly say that I believe the desert in America is the most beautiful place created or imagined by any being. Every 30 miles the scenery changes, the rocks swirl, peak, break or melt into unfathomable colors.
Colorado National Monument and Joel

There is life in the desert.

Unexpected flowers and trees suddenly will appear before your eyes. A bright bird or a strange insect will venture towards you and you will marvel at it's delicate perfection.

The rains falls without warning from the never ending horizon. It swells into instant rivers that wash away all the dust of the day.

 But you won't see many people.
Me in Tent Rock, NM taken by Jacki Harp

Now when I think about Moses, I think about that moment on the cliff in Death Valley. I've always read the Exodus story through a lens interpreting those years in the desert as a time wrought with frustration and suffering. What if it was full of invigorating inspiration?

We too were on an Exodus.

We were forced to purge ourselves on our culture and expectations.

There is no cell phone connection in the desert. You have to plan ahead or be very careful with your provisions (food, gas and most of all WATER). If you happen to run out of any of those things then it is up to the Spirit that unites us all to point you in the right direction or send aid in all of it's unlikely forms. 

Desert Flower in NM
No baths, no beds, no obligations, no duties, no churches, no schools, no family, no shopping, no news, no friends,no jobs,no music, no distractions

It was just me, Joel and God in the present moment.


I like to think that if Moses had a car, he would have hit the gas and cackled into the wind. 

He would head straight for the badlands because he knew the intoxicating awareness of total spiritual freedom.

That insatiable, joyful, madness...

Bryce Canyon

Don't you crave it too?

The quiet.