“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well.” (from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
I’ve been in a desert place only a couple of times in my life– just raw, hot grief, stinging prickles, sand and sweat blurring my vision. Those few desert seasons are so easy to recall partially because I’m so lucky to only have a very few of them. As a very young woman I worked for a small ministry under the umbrella of a large church. When one of my co-workers and friends committed a terrible crime, the ripple effect from his actions caused me to lose my job including work I really believed in, a handful of my closest friends, and for many years my enjoyment of church. It is hard to explain the full impact of this single event on my life in such a short space, but believe me when I say that it was tremendous. The other time was when our first baby passed away in the womb at eleven weeks. We went into the doctor’s office with our happy questions and normal concerns and came out with just grief. This was followed by months of blood testing and wrestling with so many questions. Those were my desert times.
But, like Saint-Exupery says, the desert becomes beautiful when you realize that it hides a well. The harder it is to find, the more precious that water is.
When I finally emerged from the desert of failed ministry work, I had a deeper understanding of grace. It is something I would not trade even if I could go back in time because it has been so necessary. That experience has made me a better wife, mom, friend, and leader because I now understand the importance of accountability, support, training, and transparency. These wells of water I have drawn from many times since I found them in that desert.
When I trudged out of the desert of miscarriage, I found that I had a voice to bring healing words to women who needed them. I found that I could pray for someone in loss so much more personally, with so much understanding. My sense of empathy leapt to new heights. I don’t take as much for granted and I don’t put as much needless responsibility on my own shoulders. Now I know that you can do everything right and still not have everything turn out how you planned. It’s strange, but that one realization released me from so much stress and guilt. It is a well I draw from as a mother all the time.
This is a heavy post. I received some hard news about a friend earlier today and it’s hard to swallow. But I know that even this will have its own strange beauty in time. Somewhere it hides a well.