From time-to-time we hear about someone wandering the desert, and I’m not sure we assume a literal translation but either something of a metaphor or an allegory to teach us what we may need to know. At the very least, remind us of what we’ve forgotten. However, if we look at the overall paradigm of our lives and their relation to an eternal existence, we see how the wandering we do in this desert of life is set more profoundly than we could ever imagine. There is a deeper meaning to all of this, if we’re willing to look around and ask those hard questions which never come with easy answers. This desert write about, seeks to confuse us with mirages and the promise of salvation just over the next hill. This false hope we chase is bent on giving us an earthly fulfillment but when we really examine the fountain of knowledge we see, we find nothing more than the proverbial sand and wind so many have endured before. So, are we truly lost in a desert? Are we being led to the oasis which is a truthful promise of our life and salvation, or are we just wandering aimlessly, just filling time as we see it? Do we attach ourselves to those people who will help lead us through the desert of life, and do we trust them enough to help lead us? The next question which comes to my mind, is who do we trust, and how do we know to trust them?
I’ve read, and listened to speakers talk about the wanderings of Jesus, as he didn’t so much wander in the desert, but embraced it. Jesus, fervently approached a time of fasting and want as those necessary steps in the ultimate sacrifice he would inevitable make for each one of us. St. Theresa of Lisieux, who in her writing “Story of A Soul”, remarks over and over again about her excitement in the sacrifice which would be asked of her. Her story of course, is an extraordinary one, but not a story of bewilderment. She approached The Trinity with a fervor and an innocence, I’ve never encountered before. Her laments in life were over what we would admonish as a mere triviality, and yet she begged in some ways for hardships and tests so as to prove her devotion. She aggressively pursued a relationship with God, this pursuit, until her death, was a reflection of the vigor Jesus displayed to all of us as he walked in the desert.
So, the question comes back to the forefront. How and who do we know to trust to lead us through the desert we wander in life? I know it’s too simple to suggest we listen to the voice of God, but in truth, this is the answer. Quiet yourself, allow your heart, your ears, and your soul to hear the silent voice of God as you begin to pray. It’s not a matter of sitting still, though it can be, but more a matter of the willingness to be patient and focus on all around us. To sit in awe, as it were, and notice every inch of every movement, and every sway of every branch to be the integral creation (beyond our mere comprehension) of God. God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus. Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift. I know this may sound like your standard oxymoron, but let’s think about it. In past writings, I imbued the concept of falling, not for the sake of our pain, but for the instrument of God’s love in the greater cognitive reality of our lives. We stumble, that we might realize the need and love in our lives provided by God. Isn’t this true for everything?
I had a discussion with my wife the other day, and we talked about the incomprehensibility of people only willing to accept part of a truth. In other words, they cherry pick what is important to their point and seemingly forget the rest, although to fully accept the truthful logic presented, one must accept the whole truth. We can’t drive the car without gas, we need all of it for it to work. The objective truth, is neither concerned or acknowledges ignorance or willful disobedience. Though you cannot willfully acknowledge an untruth and carry with you the credence of logic or proper discourse, there will always exist and fallacy of truth exposed by the existence of objective truth. It just is, and in its being, we can either accept or deny. Even though we can exist in the gray matter of ambiguity, we are still challenged to accept or deny as a matter of faith, logic, understanding, and pursuit. Some of us get into trouble, pursuing an ends, which is neither truthful nor morally sound. We attempt to pursue a pathway which is untruthful, whether we acknowledge this or not. Any pathway which leads us from the truth carries with it, the opposite of love, and the opposite of God.
Ok, so why is the desert of life a treacherous gift, because we need this gift to understand who we are and who God is to us. We need those hill which move constantly, and those hidden enemies which test us at every turn, but more importantly we need the mundane and never ending perception of blandness to remind us our sacrifice and struggle in our lives and those of the people we come in contact with are the most important.
If any one of us has ever been in a desert, you will find, there is a rugged beauty to what we see. This goes away quickly, and what we begin to see, is harshness. There is no water, the animals which seem to inhabit this forsaken land are treacherous. Snakes, scorpions, and even the plants are all living warnings telling us to stay out. Though, after our initial shock (especially in life), we begin to look past the epidermal layer of fear, and notice a whole new world of beauty. We come back to the rugged beauty of our surroundings and we notice, on a deeper level the colors, the movement, the history, and the uniqueness of those entities which desire to keep us out. With enough time, we are no longer worried about the danger, but wish to explore a newer brighter world which pushes us further and further into the exterior of everything we know, and we push past the barriers to see everything. All the while, we rely on a deeper voice, God’s Voice, to give us direction in where we must go.
This is where I’ve been in my life, not truly knowing where to go or what to do. Many friends and family have benefited from the clarity of purpose in their lives as a focus on family or careers. I wasn’t blessed with this type of focus, but for me, the clarity of a more providential purpose has been my focus of faith. How do I translate my faith into purpose for my life, and for those around me? How can I become a true reflection of light to everyone I meet? In the end, this hasn’t been easy, to say the least. I seem to be challenged at every turn, either from my relationships in a professional or social environment, to my son and his never-ending challenge to what seems like me personally. I would translate this as when we first step into the desert, and our perception of the desert. How we must take everything in before we can truly appreciate it all. It’s not about the paradigm of the desert, but rather, it is about our recognition of mission as we journey through the desert.
In my personal relationships with people, and the frustrations which come along with these relationships, I find there is excitement in getting to know the people and finding out about them personally. This can be difficult to a large extent, especially when everyone is so guarded these days, and we all seem to exhibit an atmosphere of underlying hostility towards society at large. Though, if we can only imagine, we have opportunities everyday to show God’s light in every situation we are faced with. Now, I’m not writing this with an exuberant level of optimism, but instead, our situations are loving means to our inevitable ends. The end being an eternal relationship with a loving God, who desires to be with us and longs for us with open arms.
This becomes the paradigm we exist in, if we accept our faith journey, then truly no matter the situation, our faith becomes paramount. I know this seems in some ways rudimentary, but the real questions are can we apply this new focus on faith to all situations? For instance, you’re diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable disease, given only months to live. Can you accept you’re almost through the wandering desert of your life and although this last challenge will be the hardest, it will be the one you gain the most insight, the most ability to love, and the greatest opportunity to show God’s love.
As we believe we are truly lost in this life, truly lost in this desert, this is where we should be learning to let go and give God the control. Ok, so what does it mean to give control? Control, is another way of saying to be patient, accept not everything will go your way, but above all show the true light of God and give love at every turn of your life. To accept one’s way as a matter of course and quit lamenting the perceived negatives is the first step in our personal focus to look past the barren landscape of the desert and we start to see the colors and beauty of God’s work. St. Theresa looked forward to the hardships of life, and her laments were more concerned with the frivolities and luxuries of life. Jesus was asked by a wealthy man with many possessions, because he followed all the commandments, what must be done to inherit the Kingdom of God, and Jesus’s response was “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21-23) Truly all which is being stated here, isn’t the obvious, but instead the focus of our lives. How can we accept God, if we can’t give ourselves to the journey? The journey of our wandering through the proverbial desert has become our mission as we seek God. In Mark, Jesus was asking quite literally and figuratively to follow him. In the literal sense, he desires us to drop our worldly need for possessions as we seek him, and in the figurative sense, Jesus seemingly was eluding to our ability to focus on the beauty of life, even as we walk through the desert.
So, as I begin to focus on my own desert, I realize, I need my children to challenge me to be a better father. It’s at those times when my consternation is at a heightened level, I begin to see the colors with which God painted the sands of my life. They are truly beautiful, and I’m blessed with an abundance of joy and gifts truly given to me by God. Just now, as I’m writing this, I receive a wonderful blessing as my son tells me goodnight. He is growing to be a handsome and responsible young man. He has his whole life ahead of him, and yet he still finds the time to come and tell his old man good night. I’m not saying this is what fatherhood is about, but instead it is one of God’s blessings to allow me and his mother an ability to focus on our task as our son’s parents to teach him about God’s love in its completeness as we understand it.
I’m not saying I have everything figured out, in fact, I don’t. I get more things wrong than I get right, and this frustrates me almost to the point of exhaustion. Though, I see everyday the light shining brighter and brighter in my life. With every passing moment and every written word, I find more strength to become a reflection of this light and become a beacon for others who wonder in their own deserts. This has been done for me, by my parents, and by those people who have entered the pathway in my life and lovingly helped me.
Why do we wander? I think above all else, we wander because we are looking to be filled, much like the man who was unwilling to give away his possessions. We want eternal love, but at first, we might just be too unwilling to put in the work, especially for something we can neither tangibly see or know. However, this is our faith. This is the journey, to give one’s self over to God, even when everyone disagrees. To wander the desert with him, and know, he holds us up through everything which comes our way. To realize, although things don’t turn out the way we imagined or wanted, to assume we know the narrative of God’s plan is to become the epitome of arrogance. This is perhaps why we wonder the most, we allow our egos to interceded and decide our path, instead of our hearts. We look for excitement, instead of love. Love is our decision, a decision to accept what we cannot change, a decision to embrace who we are and why God loves us.
I hope as you wander through your desert of life, you seek the reflection of God’s light in those around you to indicate which way you should go. Don’t rely on easy answers for your journey, but don’t expect every step to be drudgery. Look around, look at God’s beauty in everything. Who hasn’t ever watched a storm roll in and been amazed by God’s presence in nature? I know this is an overused line, but stop and smell the roses, and then look deeper into the pistil and the petals. Go further and think about the design of something so insignificant yet so beautiful in this world. When God goes to this level for something like a rose, imagine to what level He would go for you. You are precious in His eyes, and because of his love he longingly wants you to see the beautiful canvas He’s painted for you. I pray God blesses you and your family in everything you do!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!