In the Desert

I know Lent is the proverbial wilderness exploration in the liturgical calendar, but as someone who doesn’t follow the crowd – even when I choose to – I find myself in a wilderness in the season of Easter, this side of Pentecost.

I’m sure part of it’s the lockdown and lack of social interaction outside of my husband and my co-workers (that I barely see, I’m tucked away in the back). I’ve tried to keep up with friends via text – mostly just asking how they are and how all this is impacting their particular circumstance. I’m still working, I don’t have kids – quite boring compared to some of the cataclysmic situations my friends find themselves attempting to navigate with no outside help.

I’m a perpetually show-up-early-to-everything person, so it’s no surprise I’m hitting peri-menopause in my late 30’s like my mom. No one prepared me for the night sweats and other symptoms. In some ways, I feel like I’m twenty again and in other ways, I am reacting to situations that would have never crossed my threshold for fury before. My husband was convinced I had a fever the other night – but I knew it was just me being warm. I’ve always been an even-keeled person, but predictable hormone surges are causing an intensity in me that is unfamiliar. I’m trying to adjust to my new normal – like a super-power I have to learn to control so it doesn’t control me. I’m sure it will all change again as this phase of life progresses.

If it’s possible to socially distance from yourself, I’m in the thick of it.

I’m far from alone in this. I find myself drawn to the stories of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early church. They lead a monk-like existence in the middle of nowhere wastelands. Their days were spent living off the land, in contemplative prayer, quietness, and offered great hospitality to any traveler that presented at their door. They reflected the love of the Lord to each other and to those outside their community. Except for the hospitality bit (simply because I want to keep those I care about safe from this terrible pandemic), I feel this is where I’m pitching my tent until I figure out where to go from here.

For me, this means pulling back from the fray and spending time in silence before God. My garden has become a source of rest, at times irritation, but ultimately a way to slow down, observe, and partake in the Lord’s creation. My soul isn’t finding rest anywhere else right now.

My circle has gotten much smaller, as I truly believe social distancing will be the only way to survive this. However, I will keep reaching out with what I have and offer it to others.

My next move is to read “The Cloud of Unknowing,” written by an anonymous European monk in the 1300’s about contemplative prayer. In this age of megachurches, online worship, Christian influencers, and an Americanized Jesus, I want to know how those living in the middle ages sought God. How did they use the Bible? How did Scripture sustain them when plagues were rampant, when they didn’t go along with the culture, and how did they worship in a desert? I hope to glean some understanding from the first thousand years of my fellow Christians’ walk with the Lord and perhaps employ their wisdom in my own walk, as I meander blindly into the future.

[Mother] Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.”

[Mother] Syncletica said, “Imitate the [tax collector], and you will not be condemned with the Pharisee. Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water.”

aleteia.org

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