It rained today in Southern California - which, I learned, is an event so atypical as to throw many people out of whack and into near hysteria. It's easy to forget that this thriving metropolis is in the middle of the desert. According to the National Weather Service, the average annual rainfall for Los Angeles is a mere 15 inches, and some years can be as low as 6 or 7 inches (a far cry from Boston's annual 42 inch deluge).
I had almost forgotten that I chose to live in the middle of a desert for a year, but somehow it seems fitting. I set this year aside as one to grow into a deeper connection with God, and what better place to do it than in the desert? Maybe that sounds a little crazy, but isn't it into the desert that God led the Israelites on their journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Isn't it into the desert that Jesus must go before he embarks on his ministry? How fitting then that I should throw my life into the desert to train myself to hear God's voice.
It can be difficult. I sometimes forget why I am here; sometimes wonder where this journey will lead me, and, for that matter, sometimes forget that I am indeed being led. It would be easier if the road were straight and didn't wind around the mountains. Have you ever driven on a straight road? I mean a really straight, flat road. You can see for miles and miles and miles exactly where you're going. You can see exactly where the traffic is up ahead, where you can speed up, and where you need to slow down. To some extent this can all be pretty comforting (especially if you've just learned to drive a stick shift).
But after a while, driving on a straight road gets boring. You don't really get to do much. You get the car in gear and sit back. A windy road, on the other hand, is much more exciting. It calls for more active participation. You've got to be alert because you never know what's going to be around the next bend.
Every morning I get to drive through the Santa Monica mountains and up to stunning views of the Angeles National Forest shortly after the sun has risen over the eastern peaks. What spectacular views come when the road winds along the sides of the mountains! I've had to remind myself when I begin to wonder why I'm here, or why my path doesn't seem clear, that the bends in the road make the journey more beautiful and thrilling, and that God leads us in such a way that we can more actively participate in the ride. He wants us to be able to deepen that relationship.
So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness. Exodus 13:18Here I am in the middle of the desert wilderness, driving the windy roads of life, grumbling just as the Israelites did for God's nearness.