Journey Through the Desert

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.
— Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

Have you ever been in a desert? I have.

In my early twenties, I took a 13-day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. It was the trip of a lifetime and one I will never forget. Each day held new and powerful reminders of the majesty and wonder of creation. 

As we traveled deeper into the canyon, the river got narrower and the red rock walls grew steeper and it felt as though we were floating through a massive, outdoor cathedral. “Awe-inspiring” is too small a word to capture the magnitude of its beauty.

One day our guide led us on a hike from the river to the top of the rim. We camped out for the night, huddled near the fire for safety, well aware of rattle snakes. The next morning, our guide showed us a path and told us to follow it, one by one, but not until the person in front of us was out of sight. He wanted us to experience how it felt to walk through the desert alone. 

I can remember some lingering fear mixed with excitement as I walked along, but I also trusted him and those who went before me to be waiting for me when I reached the end. Our guide knew this path well. And the further I walked the more peaceful I became. I can still hear the whirring sounds of insects and feel the heat of the sun on my back as I recall the experience.

At times in my life, my spiritual journey has felt like a walk through the desert. Something would happen causing me to lose my way, allowing fear and anxiety to creep in. Life became dry and brittle, sweet solitude turned into loneliness, colors faded, and nothing seemed to refresh my spirit. But in those desert times I tried to remind myself to stay on the path, knowing it had been walked before me and I was not alone. 

On this particular hike, our group reconnected at the end of the trail and hiked back down to the river to continue the rest of our journey together. 

I have learned that although times of solitude and silence, even desert times, are essential for personal and spiritual growth, community is just as essential, if not more so. We need the support of friends and family to make it through this journey of life. Today I feel especially grateful for my fellow pilgrims, those who have traveled with me at points along the way, those who are with me now, and those, known and not yet known, I feel sure will be with me in the days to come.

As you look back over your own life, can you catch a glimpse of the ways in which you, too, have been supported and encouraged along the way? Who travels with you now? Whose life are you touching in a supportive way?



by Margaret A Keip

The journeys of our lives are never fully charted. There come to each of us deserts to cross—barren stretches—where the green edge on the horizon may be our destination, or an oasis on our way, or a mirage that beckons only to leave us lost.

When fear grips the heart, or despair bows the head, may we bend as heart and head lead us down to touch the ground beneath our feet. May we scoop some sand into our hands and receive what the sand would teach us:

It holds the warmth of the sun when the sun has left our sight, as it holds the cool of the night when the stars have faded. Hidden among its grains are tiny seeds, at rest and waiting, dormant yet undefeated.

Desert flowers. They endure. Moistened by our tears and by the rains which come to end even the longest drought, they send down roots and they bloom.

May we believe in those seeds, and in the seeds within us. May we remember in our dry seasons that we, too, are desert flowers.