Led to the Desert
WORDS + PHOTOS BY JESSICA LAWSON
The expanse of the sky can’t reach me
It’s too great, too far
Only heat radiates down from the pale blue above
Below is a mix of coarse sand, unforgiving rocks that make up this scape
There are no smooth edges here
There are no signs of grace
To my left is a mountain range
To my right is a mountain range
Far enough to feel unattainable
Close enough to remind me there is nowhere to go
I'm in the desert.
An oasis of solitude and jaggedness
Everything is sharp here
Everything is rough to touch
An oasis of heat and hot
There are no trees here
There are only bushes
An oasis of points and prickles
You can not befriend the desert
You can not survive for long
The wind, the monsoon, the lighting
The heat, the cold, everything is uninviting
Our formers long ago wandered in the wilderness
They were called to wander
They were chosen to move forward
Without knowing the journey
They only knew their destination
But that doesn’t matter now...
I could sing how I belong in the forest
I could dance and scream how I belong to the sea
But right now I fear I belong to the desert
And it will never belong to me
Over a year ago, my betrothed and I were burdened in our hearts to move to the desert of Phoenix.
I knew God was leading us. I was told. I was affirmed. I was excited.
The newness of it all wore off when we arrived and my electric blue Volkswagen Beetle burned my hand as I was shutting its trunk in the 122-degree weather.
As we settled into our own home and I began exploring the area for photo shoot spots (I’m a freelance photographer), I found myself wandering in the desert.
For months I had been trying to figure how to BE here. How do I live out my days? How do I do what I love to do? All of my preferences for exploring, activities, eateries, and everything I enjoyed had to do with people. My people. I belonged to them far before my betrothed and I essentially got married and moved from my whole world; my whole life.
For months I asked God for answers.
For months I asked Him questions.
For more months I ignored Him.
And for some more months, He was silent.
I eventually attempted to be myself, to figure out Arizona Jess. And once the seasons had changed from really hot to sometimes hot, I got myself to go explore the wilderness near our home.
Every single thing you see looks hard, harsh, and sharp. There was a mountain range, a sea of dry pointing bushes, vibrancy was far from everything I saw.
And scattered were those peculiar Saguaro cacti. Some do look majestic, I will admit. But unfortunately, they replace the eucalyptus and oak trees from my old home.
I was taking this all in. I looked to my left, my right, kicked some rocks out of my Birkenstocks. And I realized how truly far away I was from my whole being, my former self - California Jess.
I was 5 hours, 330 Miles, and a whole state from the concept of myself. I didn’t know how to be myself here. How do I trust God here? How do I talk to Him here? How do I do anything here?
That was one of the loneliest moments I had ever felt. And as I wiped away about 10 tears and probably a few beads of sweat, I had had enough and I finally asked... demanded... that the Lord tell me why I was here.
I had an idea why my husband was here. I had an idea why I as a wife was here. But why the heck was Jessica Rose-whatever-is-my-last-name here?
And He (finally) spoke...
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea 2:14).
And naturally, I started bawling standing on top of a rock, adjacent to this biking trail with people exercising their physical muscles. I realized God is asking me to exercise with spiritual muscles of faith, joy, peace, and hope. He has invited me into the desert to learn these things that I can only learn in the harshness of the desert. And He is inviting you, sweet Kindred, to trust Him with whatever/wherever He is leading you.
Just like the Israelites, I know my destination. I know the land to which I am promised. And I know that my God is one who does what He says He will. I know He is a kind friend and a fierce father. He is here. He is with me. Whether in the lush forests or the seemingly harsh desert, He is here.
All I have to do is believe Him. All we have to do is believe Him.
Towards the end of God speaking in Hosea about the unfaithfulness of Israel (ironically), he says:
You will know that I am Your God
You will belong to me forever
And you WILL know that you are mine.
(Hosea 2:19, 20, 23 Paraphrase)
Oh sweet desert may I borrow you for this moment of my day
You are quiet and strong
You weather the toughest of creation
You endure the hottest of heats and he coldest of winters
How deceitful you are to those who don’t call you friend
How cruel you must seem to them
With your rules for protection
With your seemingly sharp edges
You desert are designed to exalt my King
You desert are handcrafted to glorify His being
You desert are beautifully handmade
When the Light touches you, oh how you glow
Your pale colors illuminate the floor scape
When the golden rays dance around you
You welcome light, you thrive in it
Other corners of the world would dry out and wither, but you never do
No matter how little rain, you endure
You need little refreshers
You need so so little
You are strong.
And there is so much beauty in your God-created strength.