By Monica Swoboda
Today's reading in Emilie Griffith’s book, Small Surrenders, is about the desert. I have questions about this whole idea of purposely and intentionally trekking into the desert. I know that’s where Jesus spent 40 days to be alone with God, to battle temptation and to prepare for His ministry. I also know the stories of the “Desert Fathers” in our Christian history that chose to literally live there in isolation for years and years. I understand on some level that this is something that I should want to do, too, but it certainly doesn’t sound appealing most days. It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s lonely and isolated. But maybe that is where God wants to meet me. Could it be that I don’t realize I need Him when I am NOT in the desert? It can sure seem like we have everything we need in non-desert places, right? How long can a person actually live in the desert?
I have a lot to learn about silence and solitude, and especially silence and solitude in the desert. I imagine that this is going to be part of my Lenten journey, learning about these practices that I don’t yet fully understand. I do know, however, that I can be alone with Him and find some other “desert spaces” that don’t involve sand. Emilie Griffith says “Possibly the desert is in the blank page of a journal, a page so dry and unwelcoming that it gives us a full, thirsty experience of desolation.” Now that resonates with me. How many times have I poured out my very dry and desolate heart to God on those pages! He has often met me right there and given me just what I needed.
I also know that Jesus’ invitation to come to Him is a standing one, no matter where I am or what I am doing. He alone can quench my thirst, when I finally take the time to sit and look at His face. He even wants me to come thirsty. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 11:28-30. Read The Message summary and focus on His personal invitation to YOU:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
He wants me to get away with Him, to spend time with Him, to just BE with Him. He wants the same for you. Can we really live freely and lightly? Can we recover our lives when we are exhausted and needy? Is this possible, even in the desert? I for one want to know what that is all about.
What does being in the desert mean to you? What “desert spaces” have you found to be places where God meets you?