Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Out in the Desert They Wander

I wrote this essay for my Old Testament class about a week ago and thought I'd share it with all you wonderful. I was to tell about my experience in the desert and how it affected my ideas about the stories of the Exodus. 

Looking out across the Sahara Desert.
    Despite their fairly recent delivery from bondage in Egypt, in Numbers 14, we read of the Children of Israel murmuring against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (Num. 14: 2). I had always been baffled by the many instances of murmuring that we read of in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It seems that as soon as a group of ancient travelers reach the wilderness, the murmuring begins. Of course, this is fairly understandable—after all, who would want to wander in the wilderness for forty years like Moses and the Israelites? The wilderness is not exactly the most inviting destination on earth. But these people saw miracles, plagues sent by God, and were lead not only by the prophet and priesthood leaders who had performed those incredible miracles, but also by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. I could never understand how the faith of these people could waver so quickly.
    But as we began our own trek through the desert wilderness that the Israelites traversed so many years ago, I began to gain a new appreciation for the suffering of the Israelites, the patience of God, and the importance of faith. We made our journey through the wilderness in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus with reclining seats, plenty of bottled water, our rolling suitcases neatly tucked away in the luggage compartment, and a detailed agenda telling us where we were going. I can only begin to imagine how the Israelites must have struggled through each day, dragging all of their earthly possessions through the sand, fighting against the unremitting winds, with only the faintest promise of a Promised Land that they had never seen before keeping them going. During our journey across the desert, I gained a new appreciation for the import of having a firm destination; just having an estimated time until the next “potty stop” was such a comfort; it is so much easier to cope with a long journey when you know where you are going and when you will get there. But the Israelites didn’t know either of those things. All they knew was that wandering through endless stretches of rock and sand was starting to make the brick pits of Egypt not seem like such a bad place.
    But sometimes the Lord lets us wander through our own lives. As we sat on the sand dunes near Kibbutz Ketturah, contemplating in the silence and the solitude, I though about my own wandering journey. I have never actually been lost in the wilderness, but I have moved through my life without direction. Often, I simply get frustrated and push ahead without waiting for the Lord to guide me, but that's just not how it works. The Lord lets us wander so that we can learn to depend on Him, like the children of Israel. Their endurance and faith was being tried, but despite the miracles they had witnessed, they were shaken by the perpetual sand and wind.  Testimonies built on miracles require more miracles to stay strong.  
    Often, like the ancient Israelites, I am not very good at listening; rather, I am good at multi-tasking and being busy. I fill my life with so much rush and bustle that I rarely set aside the time to ponder, pray, and truly listen for the Lord’s guidance. As I sat on that bleak dune, a passage found in D&C 101: 16 would not leave my mind, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Israelites were too caught up in their murmuring to “be still” and trust the Lord to guide them.
    There is a definite lack of stillness in my life. Even in my downtime, I am always listening to music, dancing, baking, chatting with friends, or playing some game. But as I sat in the stillness of the sand dunes, I felt closer to God than I had since my last temple visit. I may not murmur aloud like the children of Israel (although that may happen too…sometimes), but I am often guilty of questioning the direction I receive from the Lord or pushing ahead without His guidance. And for all of my determination to conquer the dunes, I simply wander on my own. As I listened to the rush of the wind on the sand, I made a promise to myself and the Lord that I would be still and wait for His direction, that I would listen for that still, small voice that often is drowned-out in the whirlwind of schedules, cell phones, gmail, facebook, and iPods. For the Lord is not in the wind, the fire, the earthquake, or the constant drone of worldly communication, but in the still small voice that whispers through the sand(1 Kngs. 19: 16).

(My ambition to upload a bunch of pictures is currently being thwarted by our small bandwidth here... so... someday, maybe. But hey, thanks for all of your comments of late! You people are wonderful & I can feel the love, even on the other side of the world.)

1 comment:

Goojah Mama said...

One of my favorites, "be still and know that I am..."
Quiet time to ponder and pray are priceless just like you!