Desert Wisdom: The Inevitable “Desert”

Bunge rightly notes that we do not instinctively move toward repentance.  Our egocentrism (fallen soul) tries to escape conviction.  One way the ancients described it was speaking of “going into the desert.”

Evagrius used these additional words to describe it:  wildness and insensitivity.  John Cassian added the notions of weariness, boredom, and indifference.  Today, we often call it “spiritual dryness.”

One of the amazing things about a fallen soul is that it prefers to be “dry” with its own self-centeredness than “wet” with the infilling of God’s Living Water.

So, when we pray, it is not unusual that those parts of us which are not yet in God’s control will “hit the trail” for the desert, thinking that we can hide from God there.  At first, it may seem like our escape has worked, but in due time, a “spiritual thirst” will overtake us when we realize that the devil can only offer us a mirage of “sand” rather than real water.  We will experience “spiritual hunger” when we discover that the devil can only offer us “waxed fruit.”

And as always happens, God transforms the desert into a place of recovery.  God puts an oasis there—where the Water of Life can be found and hope can be rekindled.

So, our predecessors in the faith do not offer a spirituality that bypasses, avoids, or ignores the “desert.”  They allow 0ur fallen soul to take us there, because they know it is precisely when we think we are runnning away from God that we are actually running toward Him!  That’s what happens whenever you’re inside a cirecle—a Circle of Love.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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