The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. (Deuteronomy 2:7)
Desert spirituality seems almost romantic: the journey into the unknown. It is fascinating to read stories of Abraham and Elijah and their times of soul-searching in the wilderness. But danger awaits in the desert, oppressive and life-threatening. Death is not romantic. It reminds us we are weak and needy.
The desert is exile.
Moses knew the desert. He lived most of his life wandering in forsaken wasteland. Moses abandoned his adopted royal family when he chose to defend a persecuted brother. The desert was his reward. Exiled, Moses roamed the wilderness as a nomadic shepherd.
One day, standing in the middle of the desert heat, the nameless nomad turned to meet the Unfathomable One. Facing the blazing bush, he heard, “Moses!” The piercing voice reminded him of his name: he was the drawn-out one. As a baby, he was drawn out of the waters, rescued. That day, standing there, he was being drawn out of the desert, a tool of God to rescue His people.
Standing on holy ground, he faced the God of his ancestors, the God who Moses thought had abandoned him in the desert a lifetime ago. Moses asked, “What is your name?” But received no name. To this day, we still do not understand what was said to him. Some suggest a voice said, “I am I am,” or possibly, “I am and remain present.” Essentially, this is someone who cannot be summoned, because he has never been gone. He is always present.
Moses was never alone. He spent years wandering, believing he had been forsaken. But he was never forsaken. God was present then and He is still present today. In His presence, the desert becomes a sanctuary, a holy temple. Moses learned what we must learn. We are not forsaken or alone. God is present. His never-failing word accompanies us in the desert, even as we face its pain, heat, and loneliness.
Every day we face the possibility of dying in the desert. The struggles of life threaten to crush the essence of who we were created to be. In the desert, we face our weakness, but there we find His strength. We must learn to look to God as He calls out our name. Like Moses, we must listen to His call and remember.
God of the desert, You are my present. When it seems I am alone and the despair of the desert begins to swallow me, remind me, God – remind me that You have never left. Even now, You call my name.