If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave,* you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night —
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you (Psalm 139:8-12).
The ribbon of road stretched ahead of us, slipping from gray to blue and then into the fuzzy distance. Above the disappearing road yawned a wide and open sky, suddenly throbbing in vibrant pinks and purples. What before was just a normal blue was now pulsing with intoxicating gold.
Daniel spied a small and seemingly forgotten rest stop and quickly pulled the minivan into the rough exit. The kids crawled out from the abyss of the van, their feet crunching on forgotten snacks. I looked the other way, preferring not to see the now-littered insides of the recently cleaned vehicle.
The kids stretched tired legs and filled their lungs with fresh air. I lugged a heavy cooler to a concrete picnic table and started to make sandwiches until I couldn't. "Come look, honey!" Daniel pulled me toward the rugged landscape just beyond the pavilion.
Scrubby grass gave way to tumbleweed snagged in barbed wire, and just beyond wire, gently sloping land loped into mesas and old Indian land begging to be explored. The symphony of colors serenaded me, the sunset transforming the jagged cactus into golden fuzz, making everything look soft and welcoming. I knew in the midday heat; this place could blister scorching hot and dangerous.
The hot West Texas air was my native language- this was my land. I belonged in this harsh wind-blown place. I was part of this staggering beauty. On a sudden rest stop in who-knows-where west Texas, something deep inside stirred, stretched, and woke. I was home.
It was more than just a dusty, forgotten pull-off. I was struck with the reality that in the most hostile place, the most brutal season, God is painting gold on the very things that can cause pain. A desert is hostile environment, to say the least, and can easily snatch the life of someone not prepared for its engulfing heat.
But here in the place where lines blur, between land and sky, that small fold between day and night, the very place where great danger lies, it is here where we experience God's presence like never before.
I will never forget another place where the wild winds blew through my bare soul, a river rock turned headstone. Or the moment when my labor took a sinister turn, and my baby was wedged impossibly tight between womb and world. Flipping through the pages of my memories, I don't especially remember the easy moments, but the hard ones where God's breath alone was what sustained me.
Hagar met an angel and said, "God is the one who sees me."
Moses' mother gave her baby up only to watch him follow God into the desert and then back to Egypt to lead her people to freedom.
History is written on these pages of hard and heavenly smashed up hard together.
We need the scorching desert moments so they can host the golden illumination of His nearness in our desperation. That rest stop carved deep lines in my soul, an awareness of always belonging.
Always being held. Always being seen.
No matter where the road is taking us, even on a random and seemingly accidental pull-off, the warm evening light catches in my hair and fills my lungs with the sweetest confidence.
No matter where I am, I am with Him. With Him, I am home.