What Makes the Desert Beautiful

May 26, 2015 / Jean Hoefling

This is an excerpt of the article originally published by Relief Journal, a Christian online publication. Click the link below for full article.


What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

My priest said words to this effect, back in Lent when I went to confession: “We have this idea that life is about a good night’s sleep and a full stomach. Comfort isn’t a sign that all is well. It’s after vigil, prayer, and fasting that salvation comes.”

How this paradox works will probably always be a mystery to me. Barrenness, deprivation, silence—they look and feel like death, yet those yawning, hollow spaces foster a life that might be what Jesus meant when he talked about “the pearl of great price.” While on pilgrimage at a monastery in the Great Saguaro Desert of Arizona, I walked a Sabbath day’s distance outside the monastery gates. The sun was at its zenith in the brassy sky, the temperature 115 degrees, shade or no shade. I pictured scorpions and tarantulas in hiding, waiting for sundown. Patience. All fiery trials eventually abate. I wrote this in my journal:

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