It’s confusing in this lenten desert. It’s not my home, but yet here I am. It’s hot, bare and dirty. My desire for lenten thirst and contemplation drew me here, but now I don’t know what to do with myself. The creatures are unfamiliar, the thorns scare me. I don’t even know how to sit comfortably. How can I know God in this strange place?
I try to listen to God in the strange seeming stillness. But, really, I find that I can’t sit still. My gaze and my movement is away from God in the quiet. Or, is it?
- I find that it’s impossible to contemplate God’s presence and ignore the cries of the world. I worry about the destruction and despair in Japan. I learn of more bombings and gunfire in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and between gangs in the USA. I know too many young people whose dreams are and growth is impacted by instability within their homes. I am flooded with prayer requests for people’s health, relationships, job-searches and economics. I know that many people are desperately struggling for their survival. I feel overwhelmed with the truth of injustice, suffering and pain. Tension flares within me as I hear that our government is about to shut down. How can this be okay? How many people will suffer even more just because our elected leaders can’t come to some sort of compassionate compromise?
What caused us to get into this great big mess? What has happened to our global interdependence and national unity? I’ve studied the causes of social problems and I can’t say that the fact that we are driven by fear, greed and power-struggles gives me any hope.
I’m getting kind of grumpy in this desert. In prayer I whine about how the lenten challenge of facing the ugly can help me gain faith. It doesn’t make sense and the confusion gets thicker. I listen a bit more. Then God reminds me of the Word.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness and not light, gloom without any brightness? I hate, I spurn your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream. -Amos 5: 20-24
Oh yeah! This desert is a place of remembering, and I finally am. We do all this- all this tough Gospel stuff- because our message shall shower the land with freedom. Streams of great water flow through the land and renew and restore all.
I feel like I am trying to see in the dark but the sun is shining. It’s not really that gloomy and ugly, it’s just not my ordinary. I begin to notice the life that is blooming through the dusty landscape. With God, the darkness and the light are one.
I am not to drown out the pain with cheerful music or simple sacrifice, Amos said. Instead, I am to dance in the dark to the beautiful songs of justice and goodness and let those waters wash me clean. The sacred desert is engaged with the world, all my actions there matter. This desert is my home, after all.