Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Desert Experience

In the desert we must face ourselves, every aspect of our selves, our fears, temptations. We confront our own heart and our heart’s deepest desires, without any scapegoats, nothing hidden. In it we wrestle with the rebellious forces of our nature.

Yet in the desert one also encounters the call to divine encounter. In the desert we encounter our true state and must face it without blaming others or our past. We are invited to shape off all forms of idolatry and distraction and fully engage the divine reality. You enter into a deeper, more complete relationship with the transcendent realm, the presence of the boundless God whose grace is without limits. The desert is the call to go beyond oneself and be transfigured in the presence of the Holy One. The desert mothers and fathers did not go to the desert to prove a point but to prove themselves.

For us the desert signifies not a place but a way. We do not have to literally go to a desert—though we may chose to for a time. But on the spiritual level we do have to go through the desert. The desert is a necessary part of the spiritual journey. To try to avoid it would be to refuse the fullness of God’s call.

As most of us know, we usually do not have to seek the desert—the desert will seek us. Everyone goes through the desert in one way or another, really multiple times. The forms of desert experience may include failure, illness, breakdown, divorce, loss of loved ones—any or several of the traumas that life brings. We all suffer.

We will be tempted at times to try to escape or to distract ourselves with activity, food, addictive behaviors, work.

But accepting the utter loneliness and inner fearfulness of the desert experience is vital to deep and genuine spiritual growth. If we go through desert experiences involuntarily, they can crush us. But if we welcome them and seek God in them, we can be transformed. God desires not to deliver us from desert experiences, but to join us in them.



Susan Price said...

A very thought-provoking meditation, RC. It parallels my reading over spring break from Kathleen Norris's book, A Marriage, Monks, a Writer's Life, Acedia and me. I find it all too easy myself to slip into acedia during a desert experience, and I appreciate the reminder that we can, in the presence of God, go beyond ourselves. Thank you.

Paul Corrigan said...

I agree with Susan. Thank you for this.

Jen said...

"God desires not to deliver us from desert experiences, but to join us in them." I appreciate this posting, and especially this last sentence. I am continually learning the importance of awareness, and awareness of God's presence in all things/all times/all places is both essential and beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

Daniel said...

I always enjoy the depth and clarity of your reflections. Thank you for these sincere and encouraging words!

Sarah said...

Somehow the desert time of Lent helps me to surrender myself more deeply to desert experiences, perhaps because this liturgy is something I choose to walk through with my Lord, experiencing it as He did, and this leads me to a deeper faith when I face my own deserts. Thank you for your reflection, a timely reminder of the way in which we walk.

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