The only thing tougher than sitting in my own wasteland is watching someone I love sit in theirs. I have wandered the deserts, been stuck in the sand, covered in grit, thirsting for water that was just out of reach. Paralyzed, lost, no longer trusting my instincts, the oasis ahead could be just another mirage. Staying in the desert is sure death, I have been close before. Sweaty, exhausted, unable to wander another step, I stopped, just stopped. This is when the river appeared, the goodness of cool refreshing water washing over me, the force of the stream removing grains of sand from my eyes, from my ears. Carried along by the current, I could rest. Glorious blue water, life sustaining moisture, now I could see life again, feel hope as I bobbed along. Croaking frogs, skittering insects, luscious green grass, surrounded by living, I was no longer searching for my own life. Out of the wasteland, found, rescued, washed free, renewed, I vow to never go again towards those sandy places. Still, I sometimes find myself a bit too far from the river, I can hear the wind howling as it blows the dunes. I know to turn around, danger lurks there. What to do then when my loved ones can’t find their way out?
I hate seeing my family struggle when I can so clearly see the way out. I see the water, call to them from the riverbank. My guidance ignored, unheard, sand is consuming them. Left watching from the shore, a witness to their struggle, I cannot share my water until they reach for it. Frustration mounts, it is so easy, just turn this way, hear me, stop choosing the desert, come to the water. I forget though exactly how hard it is to ignore my own will to wander, to ruminate, to wallow in my nothingness, searching for answers in all the wrong places. I walk until exhaustion forces me to kneel. Why do would it be easier for my family? They can’t learn from my journey any more than I have learned from the 40 years my ancestors spent wandering. How painful it must have been for my Father to watch.
Time in the desert hurts. I don’t want my family to hurt, I want them to feel refreshed, to play in the cool water, listen to giggles as they splashing about. I want to rush ahead to joy, they are still in sorrow, aching in the emptiness of the after, not believing it is really a time of before. Hurry, hurry, over here to the river, I find myself shouting encouragingly. I think it sounds more like impatience, criticism that they can no longer find their own way, to their granule encrusted ears. I kick my feet in the water, splashes demonstrating how rejuvenating it is over here on the river edge. They hear me mocking them, judging their struggle. The desert changes my words, distorts my message. I long for them to come and play, to drink deeply, to know the water is so close. They have to discover for themselves.
Watching, waiting, lonely without them to frolic in the spray, I can’t save them, I also have to be careful not to get too close, pulled back into the desert myself. The distance between us feels likes forever, how long before the crescendo f waterfalls guides them to me? I yearn for shared joy, laughter filling the air, delight as the sun warms us but doesn’t burn.
Unable to speed the wanderings, the seeking, of those I love, my soul waits, begs the One who guided me home to show the way. “Now, quickly, please, I miss them so, ” I plead. “Look around child, you don’t swim alone. The river is brimming with others.” Yes, now I see friends also in the river, some seeming to have just arrived, particles of sand still evident as they emerge from the first immersion, dunking under again, again, drinking in the glory. Others have been here longer, contentedly floating along. I notice also that wives are here without husbands, children are playing without parents. I don’t see whole families playing, parents keep looking over their shoulders, just as I do. I see now we are all waiting for someone to join us.
Water poured out in the heat of the desert quickly evaporates. I realize the truth, each has to accept the offer, has to stop to drink slowly, carefully, give in to the Guide who holds the canteen. I will play in the river today, celebrate joys, laugh with the family around me. One day soon we will splash together.