“So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.On that day, says the Lord, she shall call me ‘My husband,’ and never again‘My baal.’ I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in fidelity,and you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2:16,18,21-22
Early one Saturday morning, another Sister and I went to Park Point to take our morning walk through the sand dunes along the shores of Lake Superior. Walking through sand is physically challenging. The sand can be deep and unyielding in spots, requiring concentration, lifting the knees high and picking up one’s feet while walking. Along the way we were graced with a beautiful sunrise on the horizon, the sound of the water lapping the shoreline, and a sandcastle someone had built and left behind. In the end we were both exhilarated and tired from our effort. Our morning walk had been transformed by effort, unexpected beauty, and stillness. Sand can bring to mind many things: a child’s sandbox, a beach, or a desert. Each provides a unique metaphor for our relationship with God. Playing in the sand reminds us of the joy that God takes in us. Footprints left behind on a sandy beach show us that God walks with us during our trials. A colorful, blooming cactus in the middle of a desert inspires awe at God’s presence amidst dry moments in our lives. Sacred Scripture reveals the desert as a place of Divine encounter and transformation. Isaiah speaks of making a way through the desert (Isaiah 40:3), the desert blooming (Isaiah 35:1-2), and streams and rivers bursting forth in the desert (Isaiah 35:6). Advent is a desert time. It is an invitation to return to joy and to play; to let stillness hold us; to be refreshed and transformed. God is with us when our feet walk upon the hot, dry sands of feeling lost or discouraged. God makes a clear path, refreshes us with streams along the way, and brings forth something beautiful. Advent is a time to unite ourselves with God in the dry, deserted places of our lives so God can transform them, and us, and return us to joy.