Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Deserts, Beaches, and Mountaintops

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.  
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5)

I grew up in the desert of Arizona, very much before all the sprawling expanse of industry and growth took over much of the desert land around Phoenix. As a child, I'd spend hours and hours just poking sticks in holes to see what was in them, turning over rocks to see if I could find lizard eggs, and lazing under Palo Verde trees watching industrious ants go to and from from their nests. To me, the desert wasn't a thing to be feared, but a very exciting place to explore. Why? I didn't know anything else as well as I knew the desert! I thought the desert was beautiful and bountiful - not barren and something to be feared. Yes, the tall pines around the lakes were beautiful, but they weren't the place my family called "home". There are those who wouldn't think the desert offered much, but to me, it offered everything! 

Some will find the desert places in life a little less than desirable, because they are used to the mountaintops or the beaches. The beach is beautiful, bountiful with items to discover, and constantly changing. The mountaintops give great views and help us see the expanse before us, but there comes times of great snows and icy temps. Each offers something different - the point of discovery is when we begin to look beyond where we are and discover who we are in the place we presently find ourselves. Deep inside the dry wash created by monsoon rains of seasons past, I'd discover tiny toads that otherwise would not have been born. Out in the blazing hot of the noontime sun I'd observe the creatures of the wild slow their day's work to a crawl, resting up until the blazing of the sun lessened. 

The lessons we learn right where we are today are not to be dismissed as unimportant or unimpressive. What today's experiences provide for tomorrow's challenges cannot be underestimated. The key is in observing well what it is we find in our 'today experiences'. They may be desert-type experiences, but there are learnings galore, even from the barren places. They may be mountaintop observations, but there are lessons to be found by looking at the strength observed in giant trees surging to the sky from what appears to be nothing more than rocky crags. They could even be beach-side experiences, filled with all manner of living discovery in an ever-changing environment controlled not by your own making, but by the making of a 'tide' much greater than you.

There is hope in each experience, but it must be found not so much in the experience, as in the one who helps us enjoy and comprehend each experience. Just sayin!