Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Desert Wanderings (Part 1)

We rented a car this past weekend (sweet freedom!!), and frantically used every spare second of it.  Friday, we wandered the desert...probably my favorite geographical area in all of the Middle East (whether Israel side or Jordan side, both are equally amazing).  The desert...it reminds me of God, in that it cannot be captured or described, but its raw power leaves you gaping in awe and wonder, and its stunning beauty encompasses you in loving warmth so that all you can think about is its very self.  Words escape me for describing this amazing place; and unfortunately, words must escape the camera too, since it simply cannot capture the majesty. 
Here's an attempt, anyway.
Every time I visit the desert, I cannot help but ruminate over the ancient Israelites wandering around the very same region and what it must have been like for them.  Things are very different today, with roads and vehicles and frequent rest areas with food and refreshments.  I'm sure the landscape has changed some, too, but much of it also is similar to those long-past days.  I find the desert to be beautiful and welcoming, probably primarily because I know that I don't have to face its harshness: food and water are plentiful, I can travel by air-conditioned car, and when I am tired of it, I can return to my comfortable home.  I don't have to deal with inescapable, suffocatingly hot days, or worry about the lack of life-sustaining water, or the hazards of scorpions or snakes, or unwelcoming people groups, or the lack of food, or inhospitable environment, or any number of things they must have faced. 

Not to mention that they had left a rather comfortable home in Egypt where everything they could need or want was abundant, and out here, they were essentially homeless.  They had been in Egypt for 430 years--it was all they had ever known.  Sure, they were heading to the Promised Land, and sure, their extended wanderings were their own sinful fault...but I tend to think, if I were in their shoes, I would have complained just as severely.  Even though they were slaves in Egypt, they had gotten comfortable, and it's hard when you're comfortable (even if it's in a bad place) to have to move on to a new place.  While they traveled and wandered, they were aliens in a foreign land, so God reminded them frequently, "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens..." (Ex. 23:9).  I myself have felt a deepened compassion for foreigners and immigrants in my own homeland after being one myself; it's hard to not belong.

So, that was a long introduction to get to my main thought...Along our drive we found a beautiful beach on the northern shore of the Dead Sea, and I wondered:  After wandering for generations through THIS...

 ...what must it have felt like to trudge over yet one more summit, and see THIS...

It must've felt too-good-to-be-true, life-saving, angels-singing-Hallelujah miraculous!  Even up close, doesn't the water just draw you in like the Sirens of ancient Greek lore?  I, for one, wanted to throw all to the wind and immerse myself in the crystal waters!  And then how their hearts must have sunk when they realized how brackish the water really is, and how it stings and burns any orifice.  Maybe it didn't happen like that, I'm just musing...but it reminds me of a similar story in Exodus 15:22ff. 

I have said too much, and only covered one stop along our travels.  More to come tomorrow...


  1. So wonderful, Ang! I am totally right there with you in your imaginings. So cool to see the beauty of that water but know personally how very salty it really is. Astonishingly really.

  2. I love your thoughts, Angela. I will be praying for you tonight. I also know that place of not belonging. I know I would have complained also. God is so gracious.

  3. Yes, He is! Thank you for your encouraging words & prayers.