Help me to desire
As we launch ourselves into another Lenten season, with the clashes of war in front of our eyes and the painful realities of unmet needs so present in our society, may we cultivate a desire to desire.
It becomes so easy for those of us who are privileged with so much to avoid, to deny, to evade. The temptation of the status quo is ever-present and even worse, ever-accessible. It doesn’t come in a moment like the story of Satan tempting Jesus, but rather it is a constant invitation to fall back into the warm bed of our ignorance and apathy.
Shouldn’t that be what we’re talking about in all of our faith communities this Lent? The poisonous pull of apathy, the warmth of a bedbug-infested bed on a cold morning.
Thomas Merton once wrote that the monastery is where insight is transformed into action. Thich Nhat Hahn said we must take refuge in our spiritual community (for him, a sangha).
But how do we take refuge or translate our insights into action within a community that refuses to engage with the depths of the harm and the pain of life? How can I truly take refuge in a space that doesn’t seem to know how to hold the sorrows in the valleys of the depths of my life?
Help me to desire
Which, I suppose, is as it has always been, to some extent.
Generation after generation has walked in the wilderness, the liminal space between the past and the future. And no matter how alone many of us might feel, the truth is that we’re not. We all exist as members of the family of things, as Mary Oliver once wrote. Our very breath brings with it the realization that we continue to be interconnected with the very fiber of this Universe.
But even that truth rings hollow as I sit here writing alone. What should I do on this Ash Wednesday? Where should I go?
In years before, I would venture to a nearby church to receive the ashes as a reminder of my earthiness, my belonging in this great cosmic family of life. Now, I contemplate going to the waterside and simply resting as I watch the waves.
Which sounds nice…but lonely.
In Brian McLaren’s book, Faith After Doubt, he tells the story of Walt, a disillusioned Christian who can no longer spend his time in the belly of institutional Christianity. Walt prefers now to walk through nature, connecting with the Divine in the midst of the trees.
“It’s a little lonely, but it’s better than singing songs and reciting creeds I don’t believe in anymore….I guess out here on these trails, I walk out my unanswered questions.”
This Lenten season, may we recognize when apathy invites us into its bosom and, with courage, turn away from the temptations of the status quo. And rather than turn toward our distractions, may we descend into the valleys of our lives and learn to see Reality for what it is. May we build capacity to descend into the valleys of our society and learn to see Reality for what it is.
May we walk out our unanswered questions along the trails and amidst the trees, as we support our local mutual aid networks, and engage our friends in conversations of justice.
And if you do by chance find yourself in a community, however vibrant or frail it might be, may you invite others to walk with you in this journey away from apathy and into the realness of Life.