January 25, 2021

My Own Desert Places


They cannot scare me with their empty places
Between stars — on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

– Robert Frost, “Desert Places”

One temptation is to think the wilderness is without — a place, a geography, a circumstance. I’m in the wilderness, I say, and immediately I find myself off course. Yes, the place under my feet may be a desert and barren all around. But more likely I cannot see its fruit or the means it offers for my survival. It may well be that I can flourish in almost any setting. Only the aquifer must be found and I must sink a sturdy pipe through hard dry soil to reach it. That I struggle to do so consistently is the scary part and what makes me view the wilderness as the enemy. It demands from me more than I seem to be able to summons. The barren place without reveals my impotence and lack of creative imagination within.

Therefore, more often than not, I take an easier way made possible by this age of miracles. I go into debt to buy overpriced, mediocre quality groceries. I put the cost of a vacation at the nearest oasis on my credit card, and there I read brochures extolling greener pastures. I fall asleep, drunk on dreams. Then two weeks later I awaken and open my front door, and here I am again in the midst of a trackless wasteland. I squint against the blowing dust that slaps my face and feel myself beginning to sweat. The midday demon slowly chokes the breath out of me. I survive the afternoon, parched and overwhelmed with futility. I twist and turn in perspiration-soaked sheets through the night, both longing for and dreading the morning.

Not in a million years would I have thought, in these days, that my main vocation would be searching for water.


  1. Robert F says

    In a dry and waterless place Israel was led by the Lord.

  2. Christiane says

    “How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? ”
    (Psalm 137)

    this is the ancient cry of sojourners

  3. Pastor Bill Metzger says

    Sand, snakes and Scorpions. Every hour. Every day. Eyes on the Cross. I can feel the sand. I care hear the snakes. I’m aware of the scrorpions-but eyes on the Cross. Nothing and no one but Jesus. One step at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. The Cross. Jesus.

  4. Jesus led into the wilderness -Paul led into the wilderness -john led into the wilderness and ah yes Israel led into the wilderness for testing and trial although well read Hebrews .I have found this to hold true for the last eight years the poster or poem if you will is called footprints in the sand. When things get bad enough and they can as paul found out a longing to go home and be with the Lord takes effect but in the race on a war assignment and told to overcome sometimes that’s just not an option yet. Even this very day the only way I can say I am still here is God is holding on to me so tight I just can’t leave yet.

  5. Chaplain Mike, May God give you rest soon at an oasis in the desert. My own oasis is nature, and I think of a poem by Sidney Lanier (I believe):

    Into the woods my Master went,
    Clean forspent, forspent.
    Into the wood my Master came
    Forspent with love and shame,
    But the olive it was not blind to Him,
    The little grey leaves were kind to him,
    The thorn tree had a mind to Him
    When into the woods He came.

  6. George C says

    “I’m standing in the middle of the desert
    Waiting for my ship to come in”


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