We do not always get to choose whether we step into the wilderness or not. But every year as Lent begins, we are invited to make that choice. We are invited to step willingly into the valley of the shadow of death, where sin and brokenness are laid bare and where comfort and distraction do not obscure the harsh reality of the cross.
What a surprise, then, to find that even the desert has pools of water. Even while we fast, there is a feast prepared for us. One more reason to live with our eyes fixed firmly on today.
Who knows what good gifts tomorrow will bring?
Who knows what comfort will be given though the desert road seems to unspool as far as we can see ahead?
I recently found an oasis in the desert. Refine Retreat is a yearly gathering of women designed for exploring faith and creativity in an intimate setting. During a season of fasting, it was a feast.
Sometimes I read the Psalms and wonder about all the enemies David sings of. I am an ordinary woman in an ordinary life. What enemies do I have? But this retreat was, without a doubt, a table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies, those voices that say:You do not have what it takes.
You are not worthy.
You do not hear from God.
We do have an enemy, and our enemy speaks lies.
The theme of this year’s retreat was listening. Sometimes we must move our bodies into a new place and a new posture in order to listen well. And in order to hear the Truth speak.
A wilderness journey is good for that.
The wilderness is not necessarily a desolate place. It has its own unique beauty, and that beauty is enough. It does not need us. It does not ask for our participation. This may be one reason why wilderness wandering is such a harsh experience, but this is certainly one reason why time in the wilderness is a gift. Our cultivation and our care are not required. God himself plants trees in that place; God himself draws water from dry rocks. The gift of the wilderness is that this is the place we go simply to receive. This is the place we go to listen.