Encountering God in the Desert (part 3)
By Vickie MacArthur of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. -Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV
As I sit on a rock in this desert place, contemplating the landscape of my life, I have no answers, just a sense of resting in this desert, perhaps even belonging. I can let go of my questions. I can let go of my need to know both the way back and the way forward. I can just be here, enjoying the warm breeze on my face. A small lizard darts out from behind a rock. I can see its tiny chest moving as it breathes. I feel the movement of my own breath in tune with God’s creation.
The fear has left me. I slowly get up and start exploring different paths to find my way back to the river bottom. There are many different openings in the rock. They all look the same. I try a few and finally find one I can fit through. It’s more difficult squeezing myself down than up, but I land on my feet on the other side. I breathe a sigh of relief, and make my way back down to the path by the river, walking slowly, enjoying the firm feeling of solid earth beneath my feet.
We all have our deserts to face, both individually and collectively. The world and our church community are in a state of unprecedented flux and change. Like the ancient Israelites, we feel like we are in a place of exile, a place of not belonging in a spiritual-but-not-religious society, a place in between what has been and the prophetic imagination of what is yet to come.
As a church or as individuals, it’s impossible to go back to how things were or how we think things should be. We have to learn to breathe and to let the spirit breathe through our doubts, our fears, our judgments, our uncertainty.
Will we stay in the familiar walls of our small church buildings, or will we listen to the still, small voice that calls us into the empty, trackless desert of the world? In Celtic spirituality, the desert is seen as a crossing place, a place of transition. It is a sacred space where the invisible world penetrates our visible world, where something fresh and new can be born from that which has had to die. Sounds like resurrection to me!
God, may my deep hope align with your deep vision. Release in me anything that keeps me from freely following your Spirit. Amen.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Breathe deeply as you enter a time of silence. Become gently attentive to what may be restricting you from faithfully responding to the divine invitation in your life. Are there priorities, attachments, tasks, or motivations competing for your response? What does freedom for God look or feel like in you this day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.