“And when they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the LORD God, amidst the trees of paradise.”

I had always imagined God walking like a whisper in the Garden of Eden, the power of His existence clearing a path before Him. In Tucson, in the summer. He does not walk quietly.

At first, one might miss the beginning of His approach. The only warning is a meager flash of light in the distance. There is no sound, only a sharp line to etch the horizon. The air is heavy with heat, and at sundown the darkness glides slowly, soundlessly between die drooping mesquite trees and transfixed saguaros. The birds and lizards have disappeared. The tarantula has covered her hole. The insects are nowhere in sight. Expectancy rides upon the passing minutes.

Suddenly, a larger flash lights up the underbelly of distant black clouds, a prelude to a soft rumble like the footsteps of an approaching giant. Soon the flashes become arrhythmic staccatos of light from one end of the horizon to the other, and the low rumble becomes louder, a constant throb like the sound of a marching army. The plants wait. He is coming. He is walking slowly in His desert Eden. He parts the air before Him, and they tremble. The flashes become more brilliant and dart across the horizon like a mysterious code filling the sky. They impress themselves upon the eye and linger, revealing the silhouettes of trees and tall cacti swaying with each flash. Suddenly the rustling leaves undulate violently, uncontrollably. Branches flagellate each other, and a blinding light seems to cue a wind that threatens to uproot trees and houses. I grip the patio railing to keep myself erect. I look up just as a violent crack sends terrifying reverberations through the earth and up through my feet and legs, and I imagine the earth opening beneath me.

Overhead, a terrifying, brittle detonation accompanies a blinding light as though the sky has broken open and He is about to speak. In an instant, the heat of Hell is transformed, and a skin-splitting bombardment of ice pummels the earth and threatens to destroy the windows of my meager shelter. I receive the message: Pride rightly belongs only to the One Who programs nature’s laws. The city is insignificant; its shelters as nothing. The bare desert matters with its indomitable rules of life and death.

He is overhead now, and I feel as though I am somewhere deep within His chest as He roars in some eternal language. Over and over He repeats the cracks and rumbles of a power I sense may never be understood by man.

Rain falls softly at first, in little drops that tap lightly against the window pane. Almost imperceptibly, others drop, one by one, to be devoured in an instant by parched rocks. But soon an explosion overhead unleashes a deluge; in an instant, rivulets become streams, which become mad, rushing torrents that transport rocks and dust and desert detritus for unknown distances to become lost in the folds of other migrating refuse, all following a mysterious trajectory to an unknown end.

But I remain here, watching the swirling water purify the earth, listening as Hie lightning fades and the thunder drifts away. After a time, His voice becomes a fading whisper, and the desert becomes silent as a memory. I am left alone, a thirsty pilgrim awaiting His return.