I need the desert

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
(TS Eliot in Ash Wednesday)

jesus-in-desertI have been looking forward to Ash Wednesday. I live in a societal atmosphere, among many recovering evangelicals, among the high-flyers of Center City, where depression is constantly repressed and the sunny face of an optomistic false self is plastered over everything in order to sell it. I need a good excuse to be my completely needy self — no economic recovery, no fulfilling my promise through education, no making a name for myself professionally, no perfect children, friends, experiences or body, no religious self-justification, just Jesus and me in the desert. Just Jesus and me honestly facing temptation.

I have been looking forward to being driven by the Spirit into my yearly desert of discipline to help me enter a deeper atmosphere of interior silence where I might hear the word again. It will be hard to stay there — but I am going to do it on vacation, I am going to do it at the birthday parties, I am going to do it when people think Lent is silly or inexplicable, I am going to do it when no one cares if I do it or not, or when they care too much about whether I am succeeding at it, or when they are irritated or embarrassed to be with me. And since I am the pastor, I am going to do it whether anyone shows up to start it with me, or anyone reads the books I suggested, or anyone comes to the PMs.

Jesus needed the desert. I need the desert.

4 thoughts on “I need the desert

  1. It was the Spirit that led Jesus to the desert for temptation.. hmm. I suppose that when we pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” this means something different? In the “sward and bap” essays posted on the dialogue the other day, the writer’s interpretation of “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is: “Forgive our sins of not being passionate enough, teach us to be forgiving, protect us from further sin and deliver us from evil.” Maybe we DO need to go into tempting places / the desert, and then we have the opportunity for victory, and to be forgiven/forgiving ourselves because we are wholly loved.

  2. Thanks, Rod. I need the desert too. Why do Christians buy into the happiness masquerade? Perhaps we see Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice always” as a norm for Christian experience. We certainly have cause for rejoicing, but let’s touch the garden experience again. “Take this cup from me.”


  3. I appreciate the honesty and frankness of your post. It’s heartfelt. I’ve not participated in the lenten season prior to this year, but my son has actually impressed upon all of us to give up something. He’s giving up video games, i’m praying about my sacrifice. God bless you in the desert, Pastor. It has its own beauty and purpose. I pray God reveal both to you during this season.

  4. Thank you for sharing this, today, Rod!

    “For those who walk in darkness
    Both in the day time and in the night time”…

    I’ve started off Lent this morning with reading from:

    Isaiah 42:16 (New King James Version)

    16 I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
    I will lead them in paths they have not known.
    I will make darkness light before them,
    And crooked places straight.
    These things I will do for them,
    And not forsake them.

    I appreciate that you wrote you are going into the desert regardless if people think Lent is silly or not…I was feeling vulnerable in the relaying of my intended Lenten discipline last night to some close friends. And at one point it hit me, its ok if they think its silly…because its not necessarily intended for them. I am feeling the urge and pull to meet Christ in the desert in this way. So they may not get it…but I’m trying to in the now. So I best hurry a long and see where God is leading me next!

Leave a Reply