Foundational Experiences in the Desert

 “I will draw you out to the desert and I will speak to your heart.”

Hosea 2:14

The summer moonlight filters through the bedroom window, illumining the face of our sleeping son Erik. His face glows in radiant peace: a child’s face on the body of a twenty-nine year old man.

Twenty-five years ago encephalitis ravaged Erik’s body with relentless fever. In and out of coma at Massachusetts General Hospital, Erik survived. Scars cored deep into his brain, creating an environment for constant seizure activity.  He has suffered immense pain and distress, but still he lives and in this present moment he sleeps in peace.

As I lay on my bed next to his bed, I contemplate all of the events of the past day. From awakening, through all the encounters with people, the stream of thoughts flows through my mind.  I lift my heart to God in thanksgivings for small graces and I ask pardon for insensitivities or harm done, known and unknown.

My thoughts shift to the California desert. I am driving north on Highway 395, past the Kramer Corners intersection with Highway 58. Dawn breaks with crimson clouds blanketing purple mountains and a golden sheen covers the sagebrush. I stop my car and walk east into the desert, a hundred yards or so beyond the sounds of the highway. Facing east in this land without fences, I can see at least fifty miles into a sagebrush ocean.  Something stirs my heart in this place. I have encountered the Presence again. Like a bed sheet hung up on a clothesline, my soul opens up as the wind of the Spirit flows through me. I lift my arms in praise for this new day.  I sense I am surrounded by love and peace and joy and hope. This is one of my foundational encounters with God in the desert. It comes back to me frequently in these moments of contemplation before I sleep.  It is something that happened in the past, but it lives in my soul, and remembering, brings me back to this present moment, this present breath, this communion with the Holy. Hope, love, joy and peace fill this bedroom, illumined by summer moonlight and the beautiful image of Erik sleeping in peace.

About fatherbrad1971

Professor of Philosophy and World Religions at Saddleback Community College, Mission Viejo, CA. Episcopal priest since 1971 in Diocese of Los Angeles (retired). Owner of Desert Spirit Press, publishers of books on desert spirituality. Author, "The Spirit in the Desert: PIlgrimages to Sacred Sites in the Owens Valley." and "Encounters with the World's Religions: the Numinous on Highway 395". Memberships: Nevada Archaeological Association, Western Writers of America, California Cattlemen's Association, American Association of University Professors, Outdoor Writers of California, American Academy of Religion, Western Folklore Association.
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