The foothills surrounding Boise have turned golden brown under the powerful rays of the sun. Spring’s green has now become summer’s gold.
It’s the time of year when my family takes a drive across lower Idaho into Oregon and across Nevada to California ending in San Francisco. We cruise across the expanse of desert at a reasonable speed (depending upon who is driving) and relatively comfortable in our air-conditioned van. We depart in temperatures nearing the century mark and arrive to temperatures that require a jacket within a 24 hour period of time.
I give thanks for the speed of my journey across the golden desert all-the-while thinking about the biblical stories of others who traversed a lifetime in the barren, golden terrain of the desert. I think about the Hebrew people whose story is told in the Old Testament. They are a people who left the oppression of the Pharaoh for someplace that God had promised to their ancestor. Theirs was a journey that took them through a desert wandering that lasted 40 years.
I remember the story of Jesus who after he was baptized entered the bleak desert for 40 days where he was tempted.
I pause to consider the desert wandering of many today who face oppression or prejudice or outright hatred by others. The desert place is sometimes a place of self-exile but I suspect it is more often a place of banishment by others. We consign them to desert wandering because they don’t fit the category of “just like me” in race, nationality, religious or political belief. We force them into desert wandering by our action and even by our inaction whether intended or unintended. We think of the desert as a place of abandonment – a place of death.
Yet the desert teems with life. The Hebrew people found life from the manna freshly supplied each day. Jesus found that he was connected with God through the “deserted place” of prayer. Even those who find themselves in modern day desert wanderings speak of a life in faith.
I confess that I have been among those who are quick to send others to the desert hoping that it would be a place of death. I recognize that God can turn even a desert wandering into a place of life. I profess that I have been among those who have been sent into the wilderness by others who disagree with me or who are not like me. I recognize how God has strengthened me during my desert wanderings.
There is great value in the gold of the desert. If only we can see it…
Lord, prevent me from saying or doing anything that would drive another person into the desert and should my actions drive them there, let your life sustaining Spirit abide with them. Lord, be with me when I find myself in the desert…