Arid, desolate, withered, brown and devoid of life.
Scorching, dangerous, treacherous, exposed, intense and cursed.
Are these apt descriptions to you of the desert? Barren and dry? God-forsaken?
Recently my family and I returned from two weeks in the Sonoran Desert. I enjoyed the distinctive beauty all around me. The sun was still relatively mellow at this time for central Arizona, but a blinding beauty as we came from the harsh realities of this year’s Midwestern winter. Yet there are many who view the desert as ugly, harsh, without natural beauty. Who would prefer a thorny barrel cactus, or ocotillo to a lush, full oak?
The desert is rugged and the sunsets are gorgeous, but how can you compare it to a winding path in a maple wood, celebrated by a bubbling brook? Must there be comparisons? This may be where all the troubles begin.
Comparison is the death of joy.
Haven’t we seen this already as parents, moms in particular, as educators, as Christians, well, let’s face it, as human beings? Must one thing be more beautiful than another? Which one of your children is more beautiful? Cannot two completely incompatible scenes of the LORD’s creation bring us a wondrous sense of awe and bafflement?
Then I peer deeply into the differing eyes of my three boys, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ about me, into my own soul, and marvel. Which one of us is the thorny ocotillo, initially so unappealing and rough? Which one possesses the unsung beauty of the Sonoran sunsets? Even the prickly pear shows its springtime blooms.
Have I experienced a beauty others might name as scorching, arid, intense, devoid of life?
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31
One of my sons may be socially awkward at times. Seemingly self-centered. Aloof. Gawky. Obsessive. Intense. Piercing. Heartfelt. Tender. Perceptive. Observant. Is he the arid desert, the dry rocky hills, or the lush oak, the verdant field of blooming wildflowers?
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
I Corinthians 12:17-18
Comparing beautiful scenery may be like comparing inner beauties. Incomparable. The introvert’s unseen acts of love and service may not be arranged the same way as the gregarious person’s warm smile and full embrace. And yet they are both beautiful. Unequally, incomparably beautiful.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1, 2b