Yesterday I wrote that the average life expectancy for a male in the US was “79 point something or other.” You can imagine the relief that flooded my spirit when my friend Bill responded , telling me that the life expectancy of a 74 year old male is 85.85! What great news—I have a whole decade to keep on going on!
How I wish I could express what I feel, see, and think when I drive through the desert, whether it be the Sonoran, Great Basin, Mojave, or even the Sahara. There is just something about the barrenness, the way plants and animals have adapted to the harsh landscape, and the expanse of sky overhead that appeals to something deep within me. Yesterday, driving through the Mojave it rained! I’ve never experienced rain in a desert! Apparently the Mojave has received more rainfall than usual this year as has all of California. This extra rain changes the whole character of the desert. It turns the usual brown vegetation green and gives the desert a brand new look—it gives the desert new life.
Perhaps this was the experience of that wandering group of Habiru (Hebrews) who found meaning and purpose in their desert journey so many years ago. They experienced a new kind of desert—a living desert. It was not as barren or harsh as they had assumed it would be, for in the desert they found quail and manna to eat. In the desert they came to know the value of water and what that meant for life. They found something else too. They found that human beings survive only as they develop together in community.
Perhaps we need a similar “wilderness experience” (wilderness is the biblical term for desert) these days as we wrestle once more with what it means to be human and what it means to be in community. The desert is not just a geographical phenomenon—the desert is whenever and wherever we forget the sacred worth of people—any people, all people! The world needs “Desert Rain” so it too can gain new life. Then, as Isaiah proclaims, “the wilderness and the desert will be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; like the crocus.”
|We, too, become barren as the desert|
when we forget or ignore one another,
or when we cast out those "different" from us.
Beware of the desert that has come back to life in our time.