|John the Baptist
As I journeyed through Advent this year I found myself with one of my favorite friends, John the Baptist. This man is a continual inspiration for me. The light of God was so tangible within him. In fact, the image of fire is so intimately connected in my mind with John the Baptist that I imagine him literally breathing fire when he preached.
If I had been alive in those days I would have lived in the desert and eaten locusts just to be near him.
I have not felt on fire this Advent. Not that I have not felt God’s presence at all, I have. But I truly have felt the reality that I am in a desert time in my life, a time where God is working on me.
This Advent as I sit in the desert feeling as dry as the parched land beneath me, I look to one of the readings from Isaiah that was read at Mass this season:
Then the LORD will guide you always
and satisfy your thirst in parched places,
will give strength to your bones
And you shall be like a watered garden,
like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.
It is interesting to me that God does not assure us in this passage that he will never lead us to these parched places. But rather, he tells us that he will satisfy our thirst in these places. God knows that if we are going to be led to Him, we must enter the desert. We must leave our carefully tended gardens of life and enter desolate places to get closer to God.
|Home Sweet Home
In the desert we empty ourselves of everything, dry ourselves out in a sense, so that God can set us on fire with His love.
Many people live in fear of the desert. They see it beyond the edges of their landscaped backyards but they never venture out. Instead they sit inside the safe confines of their yard, always feeling unsatisfied, thirsty for something they do not know. “Life must be more than this,” they think. But they have no way of knowing how or why they should walk out into land that looks so dry and uninviting.
I remember feeling this way before my conversion. One day, the feeling inside of me was so intense I felt like I was dying. I sat under a tree crying, not really sure why I was crying, but I knew I wanted something that I did not have. I put my hand on the rough bark of a tree and violently rubbed my skin against it. It was as if I felt that my life was not real and I wanted something, anything, even pain to help me feel alive.
Now I am in the desert and I feel alive. It is painful for sure, but it is not like scratching my hand on the bark of a tree. The pain of God’s desert feels purposeful, like a gardener’s trowel digging a hole in the earth.
And so I ask God for the grace to sit in these parched places, while he tends my interior garden. I know that if my interior garden is well-tended, then God can lead me to whatever desert will lead me closer to Him.
So I end this Advent with a prayer:
I turn all areas of my life over to you,
Master of the Universe.You will never abandon me in the desert.The Master Gardener knows what is best for me,
and will lead me through dry lands to Him.
Jesus, you planted the kingdom of God,
when you came to earth
as a small, helpless child.
Help me to see your kingdom
in a world that looks lost.
Help me to see the power in weakness,
the only way evil can be overcome.
Plant the seed of your kingdom in my heart,
and fill me with your Living Water.
Make the desert of my soul
a watered garden.
Come Lord Jesus.