By Mary Burnett
This post is part of a Lenten Series. For other posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the list under “Find Posts About…” in the menu on the right.
During the day the Utah deserts can seem like a vast wasteland of red rock stretching out with tight, deep cannons like the lines in your hands. It is so quiet in the heat of the day that one misplaced foot dislodging a pile of rocks can echo for miles, giving the feeling that one is alone in the world. Then, as the sun sets behind the warped red stone, the desert comes alive. The animals and insects wander out of their cool hiding places creating the song of the night-time desert. Crickets sing, frogs and toads croak, antelope and deer scramble the rocks high on the cliff tops, bats squeak as they swoop above, and desert mice scrape and scavenge for their daily meal. Because the desert is one of the most fragile ecosystems, it is worth taking a closer look into it and protecting it.
Just like the desert, the ecosystem of the human race is fragile. Turn on the news or check your Facebook feed and you will be bombarded with messages that this world is a desolate wasteland: hot, dry and lacking in living water. A call for help in such a place may simply result in echoes of similar cries, giving the all-too-familiar feeling that one is alone in the world.
As the Bible says in Psalm 126:4-6, “And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives, so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing with armloads of blessing,” (The Message). This passage calls for blessings to the disheartened and rain in the desert.
But rain in the desert doesn’t come gently. On the few days it rains in the desert, unbelievable amounts of water falls from the sky, making it seem like nothing could live through such extreme weather. High ground is the only hope for life as quick rivers form in the previously dry slot canyons, creating rushing highways of debris and dark water. Although the rain is almost always unexpected, the desert works with what it is given. Every chain in the ecosystem has a job essential to the survival of the next link in the chain, and finds life in the rushing waters through the desert. So it is in the world of mass shootings and extreme racism. When water comes it will not come easily, but God’s people are not new to hardship. Every chain in the human ecosystem also has a job essential to the survival of the next link in the chain.
We go looking for God; we do not expect God to come looking for us; like the rain in the desert is unexpected, so often is the living water we receive from God. With God’s help, we remain strong, a high rock above the rushing water. We wait out the storm and reach out a hand to anyone who may need a safe place. We look at the world not just to find the ways it is dry and desolate, but to find the ways it is alive as well. We look to the world to watch it coming alive with God’s spirit, so that we who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Mary Burnett is from Salt Lake City, Utah, and attends Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as a social justice leadership scholar. She serves on the young adult women’s ministry advisory team for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.