During Lent I’ve been reading the devotional Small Surrenders by Emilie Griffin. On one of the days Griffin quotes Carlo Carretto who says:
If you cannot go into the desert, you must nonetheless “make some desert” in your life. Every now and then leaving… and looking for solitude to restore, in prolonged silence and prayer, the stuff of your soul.
[Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2007, p.40]
The common image of the desert is present throughout the Bible. The image implies dry and desolate, hot and blistering, sandy, silent, and solitary with very little activity. Griffin was saying that living in New York, she was far removed from a desert. Her life was a rat race of being married, managing kids, keeping a household in order, and working full-time.
So, during Lent her challenge was to locate an alternative desert space through her imagination. Some of her examples include — a blank page of a journal, long stretches on the freeway during a heavy traffic jam, or simply times of long standstills and waiting. She calls these moments black holes of uncertainty and/or brief periods of annoyance or frustration.
By the time you read this article, Marlou and I will have been to Hawaii for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Hawaii is hardly a desert landscape. But nonetheless we will be there during Lent, and will be challenged to find the metaphorical desert space to practice silence, solitude, prayer, and the stuff of our souls.
Maybe for us the symbolic desert was waiting at the airport gate, visiting my father and mother’s gravesite, and the early mornings of waiting for the day to begin. Hopefully, God will present us with other desert opportunities. Let us all get in touch with those desert and sacred places throughout this season and find time to attend to the “stuff of the soul”.
— Pastor Bob