The most perilous place for each of us is the desert within our own hearts; it is also the place of our salvation. For this desert, familiar to St. Anthony and so many other saints, verges on that same desert Christ visited after His baptism. It is haunted by devils, yes. But it is also where Christ wins victories.
We do all we can to avoid this desert, this barren sandscape of pitiless and searing fear; we fear if we visit it, we won’t come back alive. And so we seek diversions from our inner lives as frantically as a drowning man gasps for air. We make our lives busy; we pull our iDevices out of our pockets; we get caught up in unbalanced and glossy spiritual fads. Shallowness abounds. But we keep reminding ourselves that at least it isn’t as bad as the desert in our hearts. Anything but that desert. We fear our naked defencelessness in that desert, and we flee.
But whether soon or late, whether we are reluctant or eager, the Spirit eventually leads us here. Whether exhausted and compliant or kicking and screaming – just as I am, I come. And I find that here – where I am most vulnerable – where heat scathes and spirits torment – here in the desert of my heart is Christ. Here is where He speaks on my behalf the “No” I have no breath to breathe. Here is where the New Adam can begin anew.
“Will it take long?” you ask.
Yes, a thousand years – that is to say, a day.
“Does it hurt?” you ask.
Yes, it’s death.
“Is it worth it?”
We are not given an answer, but an invitation:
“Taste and see…”