I used to do a lot of all-night hikes in the desert. At around 4:30 in the morning, I would tell myself “it is always darkest/coldest right before the dawn.” It was both a factual observation and a bit of a joke.
But the truth of the matter is that once the moon sets, it can get very, very dark when out in the wilderness of the Judean desert. And despite the fact that the temperature may soar during the day, it can be downright freezing at 4:30 AM.
It is the kind of cold that gets inside you and you feel it in your bones. You rub your hands together but nothing really warms you up. But you keep walking because you know that no matter how dark and cold it is, the sunrise is right around the corner.
And then, as you walk and some time goes by, you slowly become aware that it is not quite so dark. You start to make out the outlines of rocks and desert plants and can see the hard sand of the desert floor.
ou switch off the flashlight you have strapped to your head, because you realize that you no longer need the assistance. You are starting to see on your own.
You feel the chill disappear and the air around you becomes warmer. Often a light breeze starts blowing.
As it becomes lighter, you can start to make out distant hills and magnificent vistas. The sun has not risen above the horizon yet, but the ground starts to reflect the light and gives off almost a glow. It feels like piece by piece, the night is just breaking up and being replaced by the morning sunshine.
Finally the sun peaks out from behind the mountains in the distance. You can see fully and are able to admire the vast beauty of the desert. After walking all night, through the dark and the cold, you start to see things you never would have noticed before. Wonderful things. Things that can only be appreciated after such a journey through the night.
And then you stop and breath in the desert air.
You look around and contemplate just how wonderful life can be when you are once again standing in the sun.