Signal fire in the desert

I’m sending this out as a signal to whoever is listening. There is nothing around me but empty desert. When the sun leaves and the night falls, it becomes cold. There is no light anywhere but the stars.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore. I was dropped here as if on assignment but was left on my own. I have a map and a compass but no light to read them; I have a mission with no destination and a guide I can’t read.

Where is this place the Lord is taking me?

During the day I gather firewood and build shelters only to leave them behind the next day. I want to collect enough provisions so that I don’t have to again for several days but can only ever find them for one day at a time. The Lord gives me manna for every day but no more. The water I find is only enough to fight the fatigue that threatens constantly, never enough to quench my thirst.

All around are signs I can’t do this on my own. Sometimes I hear voices in the wilderness that offer to help. But how can they? Who out there knows where I am? Can anyone in the desert hear me? Will you use the stars to find my place?

Where is this place the Lord is taking me?

Day after day I keep walking. There is an end that never seems any closer. The vague count that tells me how much farther I have to go is undecipherable, as though written in code.

I don’t know what to make of this. And it’s not as though I’m walking on my own. The shadow of my own self-hatred is always on my heels. I want to cut it away from me like Peter Pan and divorce it, but every time I try it finds me again and again.

Where is this place the Lord is taking me?

In this place I don’t believe in love. Rest is a myth. Telling me to seek them is like telling me to find the fourth dimension. A friend wants to help me? Great. Let’s see if they can find me first.

I’ve felt my heart grow bitter. In the desert it dries up like a stone. Dedicating resources to nourishing it doesn’t seem practical, for that would mean still less resources available to keep me alive. There is a God somewhere out there who knows about me and cares about me—supposedly he’s inside me, but I haven’t heard him talk to me for a while. Perhaps my bitter heart has something to do with that, but I’ve forgotten a long time ago how a sweet heart feels.

Where is this place the Lord is taking me?

I’m expected to keep going. I don’t want help. Perhaps that makes this mess I’m in my fault; perhaps there’s no fault to be had and I’m just making things a bit worse by heaping this bitterness on myself.

All the advice I’ve ever gotten says to focus on things or to work on my heart. But I know I can’t save myself if I don’t even know where I am. Supposedly I haven’t been left here alone and I’m not in any mortal danger. The fatigue and the scars and the bitterness and the self-hatred have a bone to pick with that assertion, I know—and yet when the morning comes, I break down camp, bury the fire, and keep going.

I don’t know where the Lord is taking me. I don’t know what the future holds. I know there is something on the other side of this desert. That knowledge alone is what keeps me going.

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(c) Chris Keeney, Anza Borrego 8 May 2008

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