I just finished watching the movie, Queen of the Desert with Nicole Kidman. This is a rendition of the life of Gertrude Bell, born in 1868, a British writer and explorer. She is credited with establishing the state of Iraq. The movie had many scenes her trekking through the deserts of Syria, Asia Minor, and Arabia.

Gertrude Bell in Iraq, Photo from Wikipedia

The topography appears to be vast and overwhelming, mountains of hot sand, which looked to me to be colorless, dry and lonely.

Photo by Finding Dan | Dan Grinwis on Unsplash

Yet, Gertrude found a strange beauty that appealed to her as she and her small troupe faced the harsh conditions. Because of the extensive travels and the connections she made with the native inhabitants, she became beloved by the Bedouin peoples. 

Gertrude, learned the Persian language and skillfully translated a compilation of love songs written by Sufi poet, Hafiz, born in the early 14th century. Here is a sample: 

‘My weary heart eternal silence keeps–
I know not who has slipped into my heart;
Though I am silent, one within me weeps.
My soul shall rend the painted veil apart.’

Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, by Getrude Lowthian Bell, [1897], at sacred-texts.com

Hafiz wrestled with the beauty of the divine and his understanding of God. 

The desert is featured often in the Bible, whether it’s the story of Moses (Exodus 3:6), Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32) or Jesus (Luke 4:2), the desert can mean many things to many people. Challenges of faith are described and explored in the wilderness. But there are delights in the wilderness. I’ve explored the beauty of the southwest desert in the 2nd of my Arizona Longings series of paintings. 

© Laura Gabel, “Arizona Longings: Desert Love”. 5x7 framed to 13x16, mixed media. $250. Purchase Here
© Laura Gabel, “Arizona Longings: Desert Love”. 5×7 framed to 13×16, mixed media. $250. Purchase Here

The Passion rendition, Isaiah 58:11, more aptly describes my desert scene, “The Lord will always show you where to go, and what to do, filling you with refreshment when you are dry and in a difficult place. He will continually restore strength to you. You will flourish like a well watered garden, and be like an ever-flowing trustworthy spring of blessing.”

While beauty of God’s natural creation can be found everywhere, a desert or wilderness experience can be where God provides, where miracles occur and dreams are born and revealed.

If your beloved guide is Christ in the desert, you will always come out more beautiful than when you entered.  “Who is this who comes up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved?” Song of Solmon 8:5 

Have you had a desert experience? I’d love to hear about it.

Categories: Faith


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