Right after graduating college I put my new marketing degree to good use and traveled for a year while I lived out of a backpack. It was amazing, but not quite as glamorous as it sounds. You can still read about that adventure.
Five months in, my team and I found ourselves in Israel. Because we were good Christians we went on a “media fast” for the entire month. No iPods, internet or Netflix bingeing. Was there even Netflix back then? Coupled with our great sacrifice was the fact that we really didn’t have much ministry to do. Our contact set up a few things here and there but for the most part, we were left to our own devices.
Smack dab in the middle of the Negev desert and bored out of our minds.
In the middle of it, that time felt kind of pointless. It felt like a waste of time and I would have much rather moved on to the next country.
I’ve been thinking about that season a lot lately. I’m no longer surrounded by actual sand and dust, but I’ve been in the proverbial desert for coming up on a year. It’s so easy to wish it away. Bring on the next thing, Lord. Take me out of this place! Where is the promised land?
In the kindest of ways, the Lord reminds me that the barren can be beautiful. It can be full of purpose and it can be enjoyed now, not only in hindsight.
When I was in Israel my team and I learned a lot about Jewish culture. We practiced Shabbat every week. We woke up early on Saturday mornings and made delicious breakfasts. I sat on a cozy balcony, drank coffee and read a dozen books that month. We had beds! It was a refreshing time, after what had been a tumultuous month. We were able to see the sites and explore the surrounding areas. We celebrated Christmas in the birthplace of Christ. I have a lot of good memories from that month. It was anything but wasted time.
This song has a line in it that has become my prayer in this new year. “Melt the ice of this wild soul, until the barren is beautiful.”
Wherever you are, whatever you are facing, I hope you will find the grace to see beauty in the barren and dry places.