Down Nature's Paths


The Dust of the Earth

PICTURES of weird and awesome beauty have made Sahara Desert scenes famous as wastes of wind-rippled sand. But not so are American deserts, or even all deserts anywhere. To visit a desert, you may recall, was the Lord Jesus' one recommendation for a vacation. A desert, then, must be some thing more than a dead waste; it must be a place that revitalizes, revivifies, refreshes. On the vacation trip aforementioned the disciples found all these requisites in the desert because they had the Master of the desert with them.

He had made a previous trip into the desert alone—no, not alone. He found three classes of companionship: "The Adversary," the wild beasts, and the good angels. He emerged from the desert Master of all three: He had vanquished Satan; He could, and did, vanquish the wild beasts when demon-crazed men played their part; and the good angels were His loving servitors.

So when His excited, overwrought disciples needed a new mastery of the calmness of life, He led them to the desert. But He led them not to sandy vacuity, but to opportunity for companionship and service, to a ceaseless supply of the necessities of life, and to the mastery of all powers of passion external or internal by the effect of the presence of the Master Himself.

So for a variety of spiritual experiences let me recommend our Southwestern deserts. Death, and dread, and the devil stalk the waterless wilderness, haunt the pleasure-mad resorts to be found even in the desert, and dog down the unwary, the unfitted, or the uncomprehending. But go out to the desert with anointed eyes and find God there.

We are not so much conscious of the earth back East as of the products of the earth. The dust of the earth takes organic form in lush vegetation, and earth's anatomy is draped. But in the desert the dust of the earth is dust. It flies in the air, diffusing the sunlight into colors undreamed of elsewhere. It piles up into mountains beyond words awesome. It crystallizes into gems and ore a lifetime cannot catalogue. It organizes into bird and beast and plant unduplicated other where. The desert's most typical bird runs instead of flying. Its quaintest animal insists on an exchange of property. Its piercing plants blossom into the orchids' rivals. The power of God to bring good out of evil, beauty out of desolation, blessing out of trial, replenishes the reverent heart in the desert.

But the dust of the earth takes highest form in the desert, as elsewhere, in God's crowning act of creation-human beings in His likeness. Take Christian friends with you to the desert; your joy is doubled. Find such a friend in the desert; your joy is multiplied. My friends and I found David, the totally deaf craftsman, fashioning desert woods into satin artistry. His face shown when we wrote of God on his memo pad; and he wrote back: "Deafness is bad, but it could be worse, and it will make us enjoy the sounds of heaven all the more."