Grace In The Wilderness
Tuesday February 18, 2020
It was high on my bucket list for many years.
That is: a visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona - together with a visit to three couples we hadn’t seen in years, two of whom live in Tucson and the other in Phoenix.
But the years passed, and never were we able to plan and make a trip to that part of the United States a reality.
Until a few months ago, when one of the couples in Tucson invited us to spend 10 days with them there. So this time we closed our eyes and ears to other pressing situations, bought our plane tickets - and then, three weeks ago now, off we went on a new adventure!
Which proved to be absolutely everything I had ever imagined it to be - and so much more!
The day we flew to Tucson, God spoke to me from His Word some of the most precious words that I have ever had promised to me: words that went with me everyday that we spent traveling through and visiting our friends in Arizona.
"Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest.”
How incredibly appropriate!
We DID feel like we had come through a period in our lives when we had “survived the sword” - the same sword that everyone deserves, but that by God’s mercy none of us ever needs to be cut and destroyed by.
We HAVE felt like we have been living in a “wilderness" of sorts these last months - an arid, barren, isolated place where our souls are being pruned for greater fruitfulness.
That day three weeks ago, we were quite literally flying to a desert: the Sonoran Desert to be exact, which spans some 100,000 square miles in southwestern North America.
That day we were quite literally seeking a time of rest away from the busyness and weariness of our daily lives.
And God’s promise to us in this desert in Arizona and in the desert of our hearts? That we would find “grace in the wilderness”.
What a beautiful expression! GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS. “Grace” and “wilderness" seem to be two mutually exclusive words and ideas. We usually think of a wilderness as one thing: a place of dryness, sterility and desolation. And we think of grace as quite something else: kindness, favor and fruitfulness. And yet, that is how God IS and how God WORKS: where there should be nothing and where often there is nothing, He offers something - something good and rich and beautiful, His GRACE.
His grace manifested in a hundred big and small ways - expressed in a myriad of words and actions and situations that fill the heart and soul with comfort and joy.
We spent a most wonderful three days in Phoenix with a couple that we hadn’t seen in 24 years - and over and above that fulfilling time, we delighted in the Desert Botanical Garden and a drive up to scenic South Mountain. God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
We spent a precious day talking and walking, eating and praying together with our dear friends and spiritual mentors in Tucson - a day with two “heroes of the faith” that we will remember and treasure forever. God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
Together with two other couples who we were spending the week with, one from Tucson and the other from Colombia, we had a deeply meaningful day remembering a tragic car accident in Pasto, Colombia some 35 years ago - where one young man died, and the three others together in the car with him that day survived to serve God for the rest of their lives. We reminisced, we laughed, we cried - and we had some beautiful prayer times together. God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
We had such a fun day in the town of Tombstone (rather ironic, no?)! Known for its Wild West history, we saw a re-enacted 1881 cowboy gunfight, we had lunch at the Crystal Palace Saloon, we meandered up and down historic Allen Street, and we dressed up as Ruben "the lawman" and yours truly "a lady of means" and had our picture taken at the Old Time Photo Shop! It was such fun! God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
We spent a most glorious three days visiting the Grand Canyon and the city of Sedona. Oh! The magnitude, the mystery and the majesty of the Grand Canyon! I would have wanted to stay and walk and take photos for days without end - so “grand” and so beautiful is that place on earth! And Sedona with its magnificent red rock scenery did not disappoint either - at sunrise, at sunset and at all hours in between the views and the hikes were sensational! God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
We spent a marvelous last morning at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show: the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world. We had a wonderful Mexican lunch with dear friends. We spent the afternoon at a foundation in the city that helps impoverished immigrant children find value, hope and purpose for their lives. And we finished the day with a delicious BBQ, a last lovely Tucson sunset, and prayer. God’s GRACE IN THE WILDERNESS.
Thank you LORD, for being true to Your promise to me:
- for the GRACE of renewed friendships, of being listened to and understood, loved and valued.
- for the GRACE of seeing bucket-list sights for the first time: running around like a little girl, laughing and crying - just so, so happy to be where I was, doing what I was, with whom I was!
- for the GRACE of crazy and fun days. And the GRACE of deeply meaningful and significant days.
- for the GRACE of kind words, sacrificial actions, generous wallets, bountiful hearts.
Three weeks ago, we may have been in the middle of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, and in the middle of our own personal deserts of the soul - but we certainly found GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE wherever we went IN THE WILDERNESS.
Just as the LORD said.
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