If you know me at all, you know I’ve been periodically fascinated by the desert. I built a whole sermon series about it, have written about it here, and have read a myriad of books about “desert spirituality.” I’ve accepted it as a great teacher, and a challenging, but uncomfortable friend.
The idea of “desert spirituality” emerged in the first few hundred years of the church, as men and women fled the increasingly urban context of the faith and entered into the isolation and “fierce landscape” of the desert, usually in Egypt. While these pilgrims were definitely rejecting the culture that they saw around them, they were also seeking to more fully embrace the transformative and holy life that God was calling them to. In order to bring that life into being, they had to be brought face-to-face with the stark realities of who they were at their core, of who they were when the distractions ceased and they were unable to hide behind the countless masks that society so easily provided them with.
So, embracing a life that included vast amounts of time by themselves, as well as time with and serving others, they founded and developed a rigorous spirituality that is ruthlessly honest about what it means to be human (in all of our brokenness) as well as ruthlessly hopeful in a God that is lavishly loving and eternally committed to our growth and development.
The trouble is, most of us don’t live in deserts any more. We live in a comfortable, sustained and sustainable suburban existence.
Now we have to look for the desert, and it’s simply not easy to find.
The good news is that you don’t need to sand to have a true spiritual desert.
You just have be willing to experience discomfort, emptiness, longing, hunger, and some forms of deprivation and yearning.
Those things are discoverable if you really wish.
Lent is a “desert season” in the Christian calendar. The more we embrace the disciplines of abstinence that come with these 40 days, the more we can taste the desert that brought such powerful revelation to the men and women that have gone before us.
Welcome this time as an opportunity to grow, to learn, to stretch, and to hear God in new (if challenging) ways.