Thousands of tourists flocked to the driest desert in the world last year to see its rare bloom.
The Atacama Desert on the western coast of South America boasts 500 species of flora, even though some weather stations in the desert have never recieved rain. It is known as the driest place in the world, and one of its only moisture sources is the “camanchaca,” or sea fog, that floats over the region from the Pacific coast. Plants have to be pretty hardy to survive in Atacama.
Last year, they experienced a rare bloom, beautiful to behold. Thyme, llareta, salt grass, and various species of cacti adorned the desert and attracted the attention of the world.
What does it take for you to bloom in a desert, metaphorically speaking? We all walk through times of loss, confusion, or depair when our expectations go unmet and our hopes are dashed. It seems the spiritual and emotional equivalent of the driest desert. What then?
When I had my second baby, I went through a terrible time of postpartum depression. I had few friends. Work was unfulfilling. Even church seemed dry. I was thirsty, but like the apostle Peter, I was drowning in waves of salt water, reaching up to the Lord Jesus, echoing the shortest prayer in the Bible: “Lord, save me.”
Another time, now with three little ones, I felt overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and very little help. Instead of being a haven of rest, church taxed me past my limit. I remember washing dishes after a potluck one day and praying the Martha prayer: “Lord, tell her to help me.”
Neither the Martha nor the Peter are a good look, but hey, at least they were looking to Jesus for help.
I certainly wasn’t blooming in either instance, but the Lord has used those times to show me something important: It wasn’t the place or phase of life. It wasn’t the church or community. It wasn’t the externals that were the desert. It was my own sinful heart.
Nothing can grow when there is no Living Water.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord… He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit,” the Lord said through Jeremiah.
When the Spirit commanded Philip to go to “a desert place,” in Acts 8, he could have complained or resisted, but he didn’t. He simply obeyed. He experienced fruitfulness in that desert because a relationship with Christ thrived in his heart.
The secret to surviving the spiritual desert is to fix our eyes on Jesus. Nothing else matters. Our expectations, our plans, and our ambitions can be left by the wayside. But Jesus is the well that never runs dry. We must drink deeply and stay connected to Him.