If it weren't for the honesty of the psalmist I might not admit how dry I sometimes feel, how dry I feel even today. I haven't always been spiritually dry. There have been moments, even seasons when, to paraphrase Jesus, rivers of living water have seemed to spring up from my own core. There are other moments and seasons, however, when it seems that all I have is the memory of water. And like the deer (and the psalmist), I am parched and panting.
The only thing worse than the dry season is to be taunted by the skeptic or the enemy in the midst of the drought. Bad enough when my heart secretly cries out to God "Where are you?" But sometimes my own question is echoed in the voice of the person or people who just don't mean well. "Where is YOUR God?"
There is a challenge too, though, in the psalm, an internal stubbornness that repeats in verses 5 and 11 as the psalmist speaks to himself and gives me words to speak for myself. "Why are you so disquieted?" At first, the answer seems obvious. After all, the whole psalm speak of difficulty and trial and the absence of any visible sign that God is on the case. That would be a good reason for a soul to be disquieted, right? Yet by asking the question the psalm seems to suggest that the reality of dryness and the season of drought are not necessarily reasons for anxiety, or dis-ease. And it strikes me that this may be the very lesson that the Lenten wilderness journey is designed to teach. I can be panting and hopeful simultaneously. I can be parched and praising at the same time. And there's no better place to learn that than in the desert.