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silent beauty in the desert

From the July 20, 2009 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


I believe that the desert is a place of healing, a place that makes my heart sing.

I believe in its serenity. In its ancient slick rock and towering sandstone walls that whisper secrets of the past. I believe in the winds that carry the sweet scent of sagebrush, and the silt-filled rivers, their banks covered in willows. In the turkey vultures that ride the air thermals up into the never-ending expanse of blue sky. I believe in the harmony of the desert. It shows me beauty, grace, and power, instead of desolation.

Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has been taking me to the desert. We would pack up our truck with sleeping bags, ramen noodles, hot chocolate, and head out. Bumping our way along on dirt roads, washed out by flash floods, to arrive on the bank of a lazily winding river or on the lip of a canyon wall, overlooking what seemed like all of God's creation. I love sitting, with a hot drink clasped in my hands to protect them from the chill of the oncoming night, and watching the sun sink low in the sky. It has a way of casting long, lonely shadows and in a final show of glow ing red splendor, pitching the world into sudden and complete darkness. I find an inner peace when I wait quietly, my attention focused on the velvety black sky, waiting for the stars to pop out and set the night sky ablaze.

To me, the desert is a sacred place. Being there has taught me a lot about myself, about who I am now and who I want to be. It reminds me that life is a simple and beautiful thing to be cherished. It tells me that, since God is my Parent, I am beautiful and perfect, a part of all things good.

Recently I took a three-day solo trip out in the desert of Utah. My goal was to find some answers about who I am and my importance in life. On my first night I was standing, watching the sun set and the stars come out. The scent of juniper smoke encompassed me from my small fire, and I was filled with an inner peace—something I hadn't felt in a long time.

I knew in that moment that I was loved. As I gazed out across the winding canyons and down onto the Colorado River, a thought came to me, "You express all that I am." I realized that I was a part of all things good and beautiful and that my worth was part of the beauty of the universe, a manifestation of God. I didn't need to prove myself to anyone or anything. I left my solo, two days later, feeling rejuvenated and alive, and most important, at peace with myself.

Science and Health characterizes wilderness as, "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence" (p. 597). What a beautiful concept! And one I find so true in my own life. I came out of my solo time in the desert spiritually transformed and uplifted. My whole attitude toward myself and my personal worth, had changed after those quiet days of contemplation with my Creator. I love the ways in which God communicates with us.

Reflecting on this experience, I've thought of the many instances in the Bible where individuals go into the wilderness seeking answers. And they come out having "put off the old" and "put on the new" (Col. 3:9, 10). Jesus him self went many times into the desert. At one point he spent forty days and forty nights fasting, seeking, and praying, and most important, listening to God. I have learned through my experience that the most important thing I can do is to "fast" from "self," letting go of personal ego, getting all of the ideas out of my head that are clamoring for attention, and to simply listen. God is remarkably good at telling me what it is I need to know, and I find that all too often I fail to listen, and try to force my own solutions on a situation. I was reminded during my solo trip that I just need to be still and God will direct me. As the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy will be done" (Matt. 6:10). Not my will, but God's.

The desert is a place that I will return to—to get lost in its beauty, rediscover my own, and allow my heart to rejoice in God's grace. I love its rich scent of baking sand and the sight of gnarled pinon pines, their branches reaching to the sky. I love the orange globemallow plant that appears in the springtime, its delicate petals tentatively seeking out the golden sunshine.

The desert is a place of silent grace and wisdom. A place of healing and discovery. And I realize, too, that those quiet desert moments can be found at any time, in any place as I reach out to find evidence of God in my life.

♦

The Sentinel's Teen Editor, Jenny Roemer Nelles, wants to read about your ideas and experiences. Send her an e-mail! NellesJ@csps.com Subject: Sentinel teens


Jessie Lewis will be a senior in high school in the fall. She loves rock climbing and all outdoor activities.

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