Who likes the idea of trudging through a desert? Raise your hand!
What? No takers? (Congratulations, I think this makes you a human being.)
And yet here we are, Ash Wednesday, facing a desert that comes around once a year.
The other day my friend admitted she doesn’t look forward to Lent, and is especially dreading it this year. We’ve been through a really long, cold winter — a sustained frigidity unlike any I remember in my life. To that end, I would agree with her. It feels like we’ve already trudged through a desert, cold though it may have been. It has born down on our psyches and tested us like no other. And now we’re supposed to enter into another time of denial? A human being can only take so much, it seems.
And yet…there’s something to be said for giving it one last push. We can’t know what we have in us, after all, until we’ve given it a whirl.
The prelude to Lent for me started out with a violent stomach flu that took me by complete surprise, and had me up all night Sunday, and sleeping most of the day Monday. Was this some kind of necessary pruning to prepare my heart for this next phase of desert? Perhaps.
Despite what my friend honestly admitted, and as much as I agree with her, I do approach Lent with hope. It is hard, but it is possible. We’ve done it all before. And what I’ve learned in recent years is that something valuable comes out of it to make me a better person, and that going through the desert leads to a more vibrant Easter. I’m counting on it. And with that in mind, I’m going to try to face it as bravely as possible, knowing transformation is on the other side.
As part of my Lenten fasting, I’m going to fast from blogging, as I have often in the past, to turn my attention to spiritual readings and more face to face encounters. I’ll post on Peace Garden Mama only my newspaper story reprints, and be back at Easter to resume my schedule here.
Before I disappear for a while, I want to leave you with some thoughts from a newsletter I receive from the Daughters of St. Paul sisters. In a recent post, Sister Maria Grace Dateno mentioned three deserts we can experience in our lives.
The first, she said, is Jesus’ desert where he was tempted for forty days, along with the “desert” of his passion and death.
“We ‘remain’ in the desert with Jesus in our prayer and meditation, such as when we pray the Stations of the Cross or read the passion accounts in the Gospels,” she said. “In this kind of prayer, time melts away, and we can be with Jesus in his agony in the garden, or as he carries the cross, not simply remembering a past event, but remaining with Jesus in his suffering.“
The second is our own desert of whatever kinds of difficulties we’re going through, such as illness, loneliness, or confusion we are facing in our life. “We remain in this desert when we do not try to escape, but instead live through the sufferings by uniting them with the sufferings of Jesus.“
And the third is the vast desert of the sufferings of the world. In other words, “all the people who are living through untold difficulties, heartbreak, injustice, desperation, tragedy, and pain. It’s hard to remain in this desert for long. But we are called to do just that—by our prayer, solidarity, and whatever action we are called to do to help.”
Then Sister asks, “What deserts are you facing this Lent? Perhaps you will spend time in all of them.”
And to that she adds the most comforting thought of all, “Wherever we remain, Jesus is there with us.”
I think that’s the key. This is why we can do this. We won’t be in the desert alone. Jesus will be right alongside us, giving us exactly what we need at each moment of our journey.
Now, let us walk into the desert, together.