Encountering God in the Desert (part 1)
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
What does “spiritual formation” mean? About fifty adventurous souls from all over our church in North America (including seven from Canada), are now beginning the third and final year of the “Spiritual Formation and Companioning Pilot” training program. Together we are learning what it means to risk being “spiritually formed” ourselves, and learning how to be companions for others in our ministry in both individual and congregational settings.
Through spiritual practice and exploration we are being asked to take a long, loving look at everything: ourselves, our beliefs, our church, our community. It is a journey into the wilderness. It is a journey into and beyond our false selves to discover the Christ beyond boundaries of personality and religion.
In preparation for our latest gathering in Powell Butte, Oregon, part of our homework was to read a book titled Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self by Richard Rohr (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Father Rohr speaks of a True Self and likens it to a diamond, buried deep within us, formed under the intense pressure of our lives. It must be searched for, uncovered, and like Jesus, resurrected. It is a shedding of who we think we are, so we can discover the slumbering Christ who lives and breathes within us.
After our gathering in Powell Butte, there was an optional two-day hiking retreat for those of us who wanted to stay longer and explore landscapes of the sacred in the beautiful desert landscape of Smith Rock. The desert is a powerful metaphor for spiritual exploration and growth.
We are invited to walk into wilderness places with Jesus. Jesus retreated into the desert for 40 days of intense spiritual practice, 40 days essential to the discovery of his True Self. He invites us on a similar journey of discovery during this Lenten season.
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.