You know how sometimes God drops an instant friendship in your lap? This happened at the Festival of Faith and Writing when Christie Purifoy and I met. She knows a thing or two (quite intimately) about her topic for today…
A Desert Story
I’m a lover of stories. I’m a writer of stories. Increasingly, I understand my life and I understand my God through the lens of story.
There’s one story I can’t escape (though I have often wished I could leave it behind or move past my need for it): the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert. This story is tribal: it’s about those particular people, at that particular time. It’s global: refugees lost and searching for home. It can also be deeply, achingly personal.
It’s a story of living in between. Between Egypt and the Promised Land. Between the known and the unknown. Between what was and what will be.
We might say it’s a story about transition, though that word appears anemic alongside wilderness or desert.
Though the word transition might conjure images of a gentle movement, a gradual shift, I’ve found that it usually feels more like the shock of cold water on my face. Or, perhaps more appropriately, like passing dramatically through parted water only to find myself unmoored, destabilized, a wanderer.
The truth is, I’m still walking through my own, personal wilderness. After two years, however, I find that my footsteps have more purpose. I no longer seem to be moving in circles. I feel confident that God has prepared a place for me, and that one day, very soon, he will lead me home.
For a long time I imagined the wilderness as a test to be aced. A lesson to be learned. Check the right boxes, complete the tasks successfully, and I’ll be led out, right?
I thought it was about effort.
I’ve learned it’s all about rest.
Why did God lead his children into the desert? Why does he lead us there today? Why not skip all the pain and uncertainty of transition and move straight on to all that’s been promised?
It seems that in between is just the right place for learning to worship.
In between is just the right place for learning to rest.
Life in this place asks very little of us, it turns out. We don’t produce our own food, we receive it. We don’t choose our path, we simply trust the One who leads.
We follow the cloud. We pursue the flame.
Christie Purifoy is a Jesus-follower, a writer, a wife, and a mother to four. She earned a PhD in English Literature from the University of Chicago and blogs regularly at There is a River (www.christiepurifoy.com), where she finds poetry in the ordinary pain and joy of daily life.