It Means The Presence of God
In so many ways I have lived a charmed life. I was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” in my high school class, and although I have no idea how other classmates have done, I have mostly known success.
Planting churches in New York was not easy. It took over a decade to experience what others considered success. Raising funds was rarely fun or easy, and there were lots of serious trials. It wasn’t particularly fun having the buck stopped with me. But still, I would not consider my years with the Orchard Group to have been years spent in the desert. Our four decades working in New York were rich and rewarding.
The front range of Colorado, the Denver area, is a high desert. It rarely rains from October through March. Summers can be brutal, with dry thunderstorms that bring lots of lightning but precious little rain. Until you get into the mountains the predominant color is brown, not the green I love so well in the verdant east. I suppose it is fitting then that as a resident of the high desert, I have had my first desert experience.
Desert experiences have been the stuff of spiritual writing for eons. Most of the world’s abiding religions are desert religions, where scarcity, thirst, and hunger are common terms.
As I have written over the past several months, these times are a desert season for Cathy and me. We have had to remind ourselves of what Carlo Carretto writes in The Desert In The City: “And remember: the desert does not mean the absence of men, it means the presence of God.”
We lead busy lives. Work, school, children, grandchildren, counseling – all of these surround our desert experience. They are intertwined in it. We try to steal moments to go into a closet and pray. We have only furtive opportunities to shed tears, or rail at God. But we are discovering God is present even in the midst of our busy desert – a phone call here, a random visit there, a chance meeting with an old friend. God makes her presence known.
My spiritual director suggested I am in a period in which my ego is being defeated so my spirit might emerge. My sense of entitlement is being challenged so God might have access to the interior corners of my life, those hiding places previously known only by the carefully choreographed work of my ego.
In the midst of the craziness, God invites me to speak. “What do you ask of me?” I cry. And I listen for the still small whisper of the God who knows suffering, and who knows when it is time to speak.