I’m reading a memoir right now by an author who decided to live for forty days out in the Judean desert.
He did it because he felt led there.
He did it because he knew the silence and solitude would offer him cleansing and healing.
He did it because Jesus did it.
He did it because authors do stuff like this to earn their livings.
Much of the book is mundane–it’s about simply surviving in the wilderness by yourself. It’s about weather and bugs and passing thoughts.
But bits are profound. There’s a lot of us that might feel like those last three sentences are themselves accurate describers of prayer and other such spiritual pursuits.
My favourite parts though have been his reflections on the desert:
I carried some of the wood back to camp and began making a fire. After I threw the wood on a pile of branches I had collected, I heard a short, shrill animal scream. Then it was quiet. I imagined that a predator had just sneaked up on some unsuspecting prey, and just like that! Only time enough for one last scream.
In the desert, God can sneak up on you. In the cities and towns, people are so armoured, so fearful of one another–even those they love–that God doesn’t have a chance. Our guard is up. We’re so skeptical. When we see God coming, we turn away as we might when we see a vacuum-cleaner or encyclopedia salesman coming and say, “Sorry, I’m not buying any today.”
Or we stand waiting for God to do something different, something new.
“Show me your stuff,” we say. “Show me something I haven’t seen before.”
God doesn’t have anything new to show us. He’s shown us everything. It’s staring us in the face. That’s what “we were made in God’s image” means. We were shown the whole kit and caboodle, shown it in the very way we’re made!
“But I don’t see nuthin’!” you say. Well, I’ve got news for you. It isn’t about what you see–it’s about who is doing the seeing.”
In another place, he notes that the desert has taught him that the desert does not change. It is timeless and eternal (in a sense), and if you wish to be at home with it, it is YOU who must change.
Sounds like a certain Being I know, eager to lead me to places where I am humbled and quieted, intent on “jumping me” and tuning my eyes so that my stubborn soul also sees that when it comes to dealing with Him, there is one of us who must learn to adapt.
The desert makes the identity of that one abundantly clear.