In a dry and weary land

Right now, perhaps you are imagining me in loose desert garb astride a handsome camel under the blazing Saharan sun. Well, now you have pictured exactly how my trip wasn’t.

The Sahara trip officially started when eight of us girls piled into a tourist mini-bus. “Oh no! People will think we’re tourists!” It took a few kilometers of riding the tourist bus through my own city to realize that I was a tourist. I had just traded in my student identity.

The changing landscape sang the mighty power of God as we bumped along in our bus along paved highways and skinny mountain paths.

There were tree trunks covered in brilliant green moss, flat orange plateaus with snow-covered mountains beyond, and startling blue lakes.

shepherd with his sheep with looming snow-covered mountains beyond
valley with sheep grazing beside streams

We spent the night in a hotel on the edge of the desert. The next morning, a driver took us to the edge of the dunes. “Are these even real?” we wondered. The dunes looked exactly like the myriad pictures one might find anywhere. It was almost anti-climatic to see exactly what I had expected.

table and chairs perched on orange sand dunes

In the early evening, we started across the dunes on camels. The first 30 minutes may have been more enjoyable if a paparazzi hadn’t followed us to snap pictures of our camel train.

When we arrived at our desert camp, we ate a big meal and then strolled around outside of the camp to gaze at the expanse of bright stars that blanketed the dark sky. We contemplated the insignificance of man (Ps. 8) and then joined a group of other tourist around a campfire.

camel train

The next morning, we watched the sun rise over the dunes and then rode our camels back to civilization. On the way home we made several stops, one of them to have tea with our driver’s family who lived far up in the mountains. The scenery along the way was breathtaking.

white house among rolling hills
small shack among rolling green hills

But it was wonderful to come home again!

No longer practical or safe

I needed guidance so I asked for a sign. He showed me Gideon’s life: how a normal man became radically obedient to God and consequently did things that didn’t make sense. Neither would my life make sense, He said.

Then He took me through the woods to a clearing overlooking the water. The sweet musk of rotting wood and damp leaves pervaded the quiet space. There He told me that in staying safe, I would miss a deeper relationship with Him.

I came home, burdened with thought. Isn’t it natural to want to be practical? After all, God gave us brains with the intention that we use them.

Gideon’s army was about 1/6 of the Midianite army; using every available man would have been the only practical thing to do outside of waving a flag of surrender. Yet God said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (Judges 7:2). Like the children of Israel, am I boasting my own strength? Dare I weed out my self-sufficiency to see that it is not I who prevails but He who is within me?

And as for safety, it’s second from the bottom in the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans need to feel safe even before love, esteem, and self-actualization. Of course, I’m not acknowledging Abraham Maslow as the expert on all things psychological; however, his study reveals the human desire for safety. We rarely put ourselves in danger’s way unless we somehow feel in control. To always be safe is like the fetus who never exits the mother’s womb. Never will he grow and mature into a child, teenager, adult. Never will he taste life’s richness unless he becomes unsafe. Am I ready to face the world outside of the womb?

Walking in Phoenix

The drying sun scalds
A tree of drooping red pods

The humming planes are low enough
To brush with jealous fingertips

Shrubbery sprawls over landscape
Like frazzled starfish

A name--Jason--engraved
In concrete not yet dry

A squeaking rope fastens
A willful flag to its pole

Windows of a lonely skyscraper
Glow pink in sleepy sunlight

Choruses of weary air conditioners
Ricochet between adobe houses

Breezes dance along baked concrete
And chase us inside

Photo by PJ Gal-Szabo on Unsplash