The vast desert stretches before me.
It fills my vision from horizon to horizon.
Bronze-yellow undulating dunes
flow one into another as far as I can see.
By day the sun blazes down
and bakes the sand beneath my feet.
I feel its heat coming up through my shoes.
Each step clings to my leaden feet.
The wind stirs up the sand and flings it into my face,
stinking my cheeks and blinding my eyes.
My night the warmth of the sun is replaced
by the chill of its silver sibling the moon.
Despite my cloak the cold of night gnaws at my bones
and sleep eludes me.
The landscape changes only slowly.
Direction is hard to find.
Day repeats night, repeats day repeats night.
A day feels like the one that preceded it.
I feel I am making no headway.
Then one day a smudge appears on the horizon.
Something that stands upright.
Something that interrupts the smooth line of the horizon.
With each passing day it grows taller,
until at last I recognise it’s signpost. Oasis!
More days of travail pass by. Then in the
lengthening shadows of late afternoon I arrive.
Arrive at this island of cool and plenty
amongst the sea of heat and sand.
I rush and bury my head in the cool sweet water,
letting its refreshment pass over me.
When I surface I notice that I am also no longer alone.
I see a tent, smell a fire and hear a cracking.
Its inhabitant hails me
“Welcome friend! You look like a man in need of refreshment!”
Indeed I do.
I am ushered to an exotic rug laid out on the sand in front of the fire.
Soft cushions are arrayed to make me comfortable.
“Come, come” says my host “join me for some tea”.
Above the crackling fire sits a kettle.
Gently hissing and bubbling to itself.
They reach over, pour its contents into a pot and,
after a time, hands me a cup of the sweet drink.
It is nectar to my parched throat.
“Drink, enjoy, rest!” implores my host with a smile.
As the dark gathers once more its creeping cold
tries to encircle me – but this time to no avail.
Here, with my new friend, in front of their fire,
I am safe and warm.
“You must be hungry – here eat” and without a
second thought my host shares their food with me.
As the night deepens, the stars twinkle into sight
as the embers from the fire seem to take flight,
leap into the sky to try and join the stars.
The night passes slowly as my new found friend
and I lie back and study the magnificent show above.
We talk of many mysteries.
Day follows night follows day once more.
But my host shows no sign of moving on
and their generosity continues.
My needs are met without request.
Who am I to them?
What can I bring?
What can I say?
What can I do?
Then one day I see another sight on the horizon.
The wisp of a dust trail.
The footprint of the traders camel train.
I feel drawn but do not wish to leave.
Suddenly my new friend is at my shoulder,
also studying the horizon.
“You need to leave don’t you?” they ask.
“Yes – but I don’t want to” I reply.
“I know – but if you stay you will never
know what wonders await.”
The next day, at break of dawn I leave my oasis home.
Head out once more into my nemesis, the desert.
To find the camel train I see in the distance before me.
I cannot tarry any more.
I am drawn forever onwards.
This, rather longer than expected poem, attempts to explain what it feels like to me when you come across that right person at the right time who encourages you onward. You may never meet them again but for that moment they were God’s right person in the right place at the right time.
I started the process of sharing my poems a year ago. At times it has felt like walking through a desert because I’ve struggled to find any people local to me who use similar creative expression. Sharing via the Internet can be a strangely lonely experience because you rarely get any feedback. For me it would be great to have people alongside me as I continue to see where God wants to take me on this particular journey.
At NewDay 2017 I bumped into one such person. So, Cat C. if you ever get to read this you were God’s right person in the right place at the right time for me. You’ve given me the encouragement to carry on.
I suspect all of us go through “desert times” in our Christian life. So if this rings true for you I pray that you too will come across that right person in the right place at the right time. However and whoever you identify with the oasis host in this poem I hope you meet them soon. Much as we may want to stay in the moment, sometimes they will just be people who pass thorough our lives.
Since writing this several people have asked me who the mysterious host is in this poem. Well, I have left it deliberately ambiguous because they will mean different things to different people at different times. The obvious thing to say is that the host is Christ – well I think God is far more subtle and creative in the ways he interacts with us.