Driving in the Desert

Every spring break and summer, my daughters and I drive to Arizona to see Grandpa, Grandma and Papa. It’s a 9 hour journey from San Diego to Scottsdale complete with 2 DVDs and stops every hour to stretch, eat, play, pee, and generally take a break from the kids bickering at each other about whose coloring book the other kid has. This time we knew we were in for a different kind of trip when, an hour into our drive, we discovered our DVD player was broken. Anyone with kids on a long trip can feel my pain here.

I looked at my mom, who graciously drives with me each time, and said, “Well, God’s going to have to do something great with this situation, cuz it’s looking like a LONG trip across the desert.”

Fortunately, before we discovered our video babysitter wasn’t along for the ride, my mom read Psalm 20:1-5 to me as part of our routine to pray for our drive. It became our mantra and memory verse for the drive there and back:

“May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you on high!
May He send you help from the sanctuary And support you from Zion!
May He remember all your offerings And accept your burnt sacrifice! Selah.
May He grant you your heart’s desire And fulfill all your purpose!
We will sing for joy over your victory, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.”

The words seemed just for us that day. It certainly looked like it was going to be a “day of trouble!” But I couldn’t see how God could “set me on high” when I was trapped in the car with my challenges. Throughout the drive I frequently faced a choice: get really agitated or actually believe the words we memorized. A couple of times I chose agitated. And I yelled. Or ate an extra pack of fruit snacks. Many times I wished myself far away from the bickering. But even more times my mom and I both decided to believe God for his help. Because of that, we felt encouraged and full of joy during most of our hours driving in the desert.

After spending so much time thinking about those words on our trip, I discovered they stuck with me when I got home. When I got stressed about not finding a tenant for our condo, or frustrated with the baby throwing her bowl of pasta at me, I could almost hear the words in my mind. Three phrases leaped out at me over and over again: “May the name of the God of Jacob set you on high,” “May he… support you from Zion,” and “May he remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice.”

“May the name of the God of Jacob set you on high”

The Psalmist could have used the name Israel here, but chose instead “the God of Jacob.” Being Israel’s original name, it means deceiver or supplanter, and represents his old nature before he lived in God’s promises. It’s as if God wants to remind us that even when we’re living in our old patterns or lacking faith, he still defends us.

“May he… support you from Zion.”

Zion means “parched place.” Kind of a strange meaning for the name of the promised land! Perhaps it shows how God desires to turn the parched places in our lives into blessings. As I drove through the Arizona desert, it continually reminded me to look for God’s support and help in the middle of whatever was going on in each moment.

“May he remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice.”

Offerings and sacrifices are acts of obedience and choice, to bring us closer to God in worship and repentance. For me during our trip, my offerings were choices to respond to my kids with kindness when we were all hot, tired, hungry or annoyed at each other. Knowing that God remembered all the times I tried to honor him in my actions made me feel like he was right there with me through it all.

I have to say that even with the DVD player broken, we had more fun during the drives this time than any other before. I’m so grateful for the trip and all the fun we had together and I’m even more grateful for the words of this Psalm that continue to encourage me now that I’m back home!

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