THE GREEK WORD traditionally translated “desert” or “wilderness” … doesn’t mean hot and dry. It means uninhabited, lonely, with no human population. … The word can even be applied to people, in the sense of being without friends or supporters, or simply solitary. …
Where might we experience … deserted spaces? There are emotional deserts, … There are bodily deserts. Illness and accident, germs and genetics, cut us off from physical health. Age robs us of what we once could do with ease. … There are vocational deserts. We may be in the middle of college and have to admit that we have no idea why we are there. … Or we look around in our middle years and suddenly realize that we still don’t know what we want to be when we grow up. …
There are economic deserts. Poverty is a wasteland that seems to have a hundred paths. … There are social deserts. A friendship may seem to beckon, but prove impossible to develop because of various obstacles. … There are deserts of time: too little available, too much wasted, a lack of control over our time, time on our hands that seems impossible to fill …
There are most definitely spiritual deserts. Some people sense a calling, a certain sense of being summoned by God in a particular direction, but every circumstance of life seems to rise up and forbid them to answer. …
Every area of life has some potential to be desert. Of course, most of the things I’ve listed involve unchosen deserts rather than voluntary withdrawal into the wilderness. Yet in a sense everyone who has chosen the life of commitment to God has chosen the desert. Even if we have not entered a convent or a hermitage, once we have decided to love God “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength” (see Mark 12:30), we have subordinated everything that we have and are to the will of God. …
The truth is that we must simply learn to live in the desert, must try to remain oriented toward God as we go on through the misery. The divine presence is not the way out of the desert, it is the way through the desert. Remain attentive to God, stay utterly dependent on God — this is the lesson of the desert.
– David Rensberger
“Weavings”, May/June 2001
From “Entering the Desert Way” by David Rensberger, pages 8-9 inAlive Now, March/April 2012. Originally published in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, May/June 2001. Copyright © 2001 by The Upper Room. Used by permission. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
How have you experienced spiritual desert? Share your thoughts.
Today’s Scripture Reading
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Mark 8:35-37, NRSV
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