How does God go about increasing our spiritual stamina, extending our persevering faithfulness and enriching our grace-orientation in relation to Himself and others? He does so by pressing us past what we thought were our limits, by making faithfulness more challenging than it used to be, and by opening our eyes to the shortcomings of others and our own. And one of the landscapes in which is often occurs is the spiritual desert. Listen to what Laura Swan says in her book on The Forgotten Desert Mothers:
“The desert journey is one inch long and many miles deep. Inward is the only direction of travel.
The spiritual journey requires perseverance, steadfastness, remaining with commitments, and working through difficulties. Relationships can grow stale and boring; our overcommitments can seem hard to untangle. ‘Moving on’ might seem easier than working through misunderstandings; ‘staying on’ is an invitation to deepen valued relationships and commitments. Stability and perseverance provide the strength for the hard interior work of transformation; inner wrestling deepens our interior life. In the midst of this hard work we encounter our real selves.” (Laura Swan. The Forgotten Desert Mothers. New York: Paulist Press, 2001, p. 47.)
The very language of this paragraph is countercultural for quick-fix USAmericans. We tend to feel that there isn’t anything that can’t be solved by just stepping harder on the gas pedal of our lives and increasing our efforts at work. The desert is the place where all our speed and hurry are exposed as empty. There are few markers to measure our outward progress in the desert. We are driven to pay better attention to what is happening within us. Rather than running from the obviously broken in search of the apparently unbroken people or situations, we awaken to the reality that brokenness is a universal human condition, and the only sane choice is to stay where God puts us and welcome His healing, restoring grace to be present to us.
- What is it about your circumstances right now that you don’t like and you can’t change?
- How might this be the very place God is desiring to use to deepen your roots, length your patience and enrich your inner life with Him?
- Are you open?