In Wisconsin, where I live, we never contend with intense sun and dry. Not like where I walked yesterday. At least not on the outside. But we all have known some extremes on the inside, haven’t we? Where we feel the force of something much larger than we can control looming, beating down on us hard. Where our souls long for a cool, refreshing cup of life-giving water. Where we stay stuck for a time in the thick rock of circumstance, unable to break free. Where we must wait for relief, for some saving grace to release, for some sort of good to sprout through the hard.
Even in this harsh place, there is life abundant.
I see a Gila woodpecker slipping into a hollow of a saguaro, finding shelter from heat and a place to bring new life.
I walk along a stony path and hear the coo-coo-COO of a mourning dove crying a psalm. Is it a lament for her life in the harsh or a praise to the One who sustains and grows? Can even laments be praise when we cast our cares on the One who saves?
I feel rock under my feet—enormous boulders broken away from the foundation of the earth during an earthquake long ago. God heaved and scattered his earth as easily as I tossed a handful of marbles into the sand as a child, all mixed up in glory. And I still worry? Is my God not able to bring me through all hard places? Is my God not able to call Living Water from on high, pouring into, over, and through the broken, bringing hope to all those living in desert spaces?
Amidst all the created here in the desert, I most come to see the saguaro each year. I need a tangible reminder of how to thrive in the hard and dry. Here she stands, the tallest cactus, found only in this one place on earth—the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Here, she waits for scarce rain and melted snow trickling down from mountain peaks above. Here, her Maker sees her, even this one among thousands. He delights in loving her here, even in this place of dust where snakes crawl on their bellies.
In her given place, she waits for new beginnings that sometimes don’t come quickly. I’m not so patient yet. I try. I pray. But honestly? Sometimes I grow weary and tired of the wait in the hard, the dry, the cracked. Yet, I know no season lasts forever. There is a season for everything—for everyone. And God’s grace keeps me grounded, digging deep in faith. And even if, like the saguaro, it takes 75 years to sprout just one arm—a nub—I will not despise small beginnings. Strong arms will grow in due time. More will come. And if the saguaro can raise praise to our Maker in the dusty, the dry, and the hard, can’t I?
She’s beginning to bloom now, the saguaro. It’s her season in this circle of life, this never-ending spiral upward and outward of God’s glory.
This is his will for the saguaro, for the cactus wren, for the mourning dove. This is his will for the prickly pear, the cholla, the hop bush, and even the rocks which shout praise in their hard pressed striations.
So we stand, you and I, in seasons of plenty and seasons of poverty. We stand, you and I, in seasons of dry and seasons of refreshing. And we praise our God in all seasons. Because we’re all in the able and good hands of our God with the perfect heart of grace for all his created.
It is well with my soul, wherever I am and whatever may come. By his grace, I will always proclaim.