Several years ago a friend gave me a Chinese scroll for Christmas. On it are a painting of a tree in delicate lines of green beside a small stream and the words of Isaiah 58:11 in Chinese calligraphy:
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
A few of my wall hangings became moldy after enduring the steamy heat of several rainy seasons in Jinghong, and they had to be thrown away — but my scroll from Isaiah survived and hangs on my wall on the desert side of Washington today.
I was reminded of the words and the image of the tree by water as I drove through the desert between Balmorhea and Fort Davis in West Texas. Looking out across the landscape, I saw the foothills of the Davis Mountains covered in brush and cactus and yucca, rolling up from Balmorhea at 3,100 feet to Fort Davis at 5,050 feet. Much of this land still bears the charred black evidence of last April’s wildfires that burned more than 310,000 acres.
Here and there along the way a short line of cottonwoods would appear in a burst of bright, fresh green upon the brown and grey and dull yellow of the desert backdrop. From my far-off vantage point, it was hard to tell how a stand of trees could suddenly show up in the desert, how something so tall and so green and so evident of spring could exist in a land parched of moisture. Cross that distance to look up close, however, and you’ll find a small creek or an irrigation canal carving a curve in that corner of the desert. Where there is water, tree roots dig deep.
This afternoon the roots of my heart dig deep and search for Jesus, the living water that satisfies my desires in scorched places.