I woke up that morning feeling somewhat discouraged. I couldn’t place my finger on it exactly until I had the kids dressed and fed, husband sent off to work, and had the space to begin preparing my breakfast. As the bacon sizzled its tantalizing scent throughout the house, it hit my chest like a weight of bricks: I longed to return to the wide open road from which I had come just four weeks earlier.
My mom offered to drive me and my two girls (four and two at the time) out to her house in East Texas. So we had embarked on one of our many adventures together – driving from Los Angeles to Dallas with two kids and a mostly-in-order black Honda Accord. Most of my friends thought I was crazy but knew me better than to say anything.
Out of all our adventures together, this was by far among my top favorites. There was something about being in control of all my stops and starts, not worrying about being on a schedule. Just one goal in mind: to get to Mom’s house.
It was an endless drive. After a while, our minds habituated to the routine of watching the road signs for the next nearest town – did it have a gas station? How many miles until the next rest-stop? One exit didn’t even have a name – it was just Exit 29, 15 miles.
Out there in the desert that stretches for thousands of miles, you begin to wonder why any living creature would settle in these dust bowls at all. But the towns were there.
London, West Texas was so far off the beaten path, there was no cell-service, and the rest room had a sign requesting no toilet paper be thrown in the toilet due to poor plumbing! Another, Alpine, Texas, had one main diner in town, complete with the waist-length gray-haired, mid-50’s waitress who wrote your order on a standard lined note-pad, and talked to you only from behind the bar next to your table. It felt like we were in a movie. But these were no imitations, no one was trying to put on a show to entertain us – they were just making a living, almost annoyed by our interruption in their day, there where they were literally hundreds of miles from the next nearest town or interstate.
Out in these desert towns, there was space to exist and no one to impress. People knew your face and name and favorite diner order almost immediately. No one was in a hurry, there was no place to go.
And it was out there in one of those desert towns that I met God in a silent storm.
Lightning had frequented our journey. We had seen it at night as we were driving over the border from Arizona to New Mexico. It greeted us as we crossed into Texas, where city lights faded, and a consuming darkness prevailed.
But this lightning was distinct. The clouds enveloped a hillside, rolling over it like a blanket, putting the dust to bed. When it lit up the sky, it exposed the fading pink from the setting sun still lining the clouds. Purple, pink, navy blue dark, the lightning grasped a moment for the eyes to behold before burying it back in the darkness. You couldn’t capture this beauty. I tried, though deep down I knew my attempts would be in vain no matter how many times I clicked my camera.
As I witnessed this sight, it struck me that it would have happened, whether had I been there to see it or not. God was not showcasing His glory just for me. He was doing what He always did – watering the desert with rain, feeding the soil and the desert life that depended on it, giving much-needed water to the creatures that called that particular hillside their home. He was very much alive and living and active, engaged in His world – for it was His creation to nurture. It was a privilege to be there – to witness this demonstration of His handiwork. And He would have done it even without me there to see it.
It put me in my place, seeing that lightning storm in that desert. I am small; He is not. All the worries on my heart just fell to pieces as I beheld this small glimpse of His greatness and goodness.
A worship that transformed me.
I feared Him and yet had to keep beholding Him.
These are heart-postures I throw all my energies to attain to during my normal life, and yet, there I was, in that desert-town, encountering a taste of God’s glory, when all I had been doing was walking back from dinner at the diner to my bed in our hotel. I hadn’t been looking for Him, but He was there all the same, whether I cared to stop and behold or not.
This is a taste of Eden and the promise she yet holds for us: to behold God without effort. To see Him for who He is, without striving. To fear Him and yet desire Him because of His beauty and glory.
This is what Adam and Eve lost us when they betrayed Him in the garden so very long ago. The sweet ease of communion with God, not belabored by distance, time, misunderstanding and lack of faith, nor the clutter of sin that so utterly clouds our vision.
Scripture says that some day, when Jesus returns, we will see Him as He is – and what is more, we will become like Him.
Oh how my heart yearns to be heavenward. To the leave the dust of this earth behind and behold Him always and forever.
But linger though I may beneath that darkened sky, I must soon return to my bedside for a night’s sleep before the sun rises again on another day. And what lingers on in my heart instead is that fragrance of heaven I caught in the glimpse of the skies, the night I met God in the desert.