Sunday, August 28, 2011

A New Definition of Desert

Whenever I've heard people talk about being in a spiritual desert, my interpretation of their words led me to believe that this meant they were in a continual state of thirst.  Parched and unable to find the water needed to soothe their souls, their words sent me the message that this was no place where I ever wanted to be.  To be in a spiritual desert meant a period of life away from God and away from sustenance.  I equated it almost to being thrown to the wolves, a place where God sends us to see if we can survive.

At church today, though, God corrected my theology of what it means to be in the desert.  I have come to the realization that while the desert may not always be pleasant, it is not a place to fear.  In the desert, God is still there, as we see Jesus fortified by God's Word and by the angels sent to tend to Him when he was there for forty days.  In my Sunday school class, we are learning about desert spirituality and the practices of people who left behind all they had and headed to the desert to find God.

Just to clarify, I am not selling everything I own.  I am not forsaking my life here with my family and heading westward.  But, I do feel God calling me to a process of emptying.  When Anthony (who became one of the most well-known Desert Fathers) was in the desert, he wrestled with the temptations of the flesh, of the world.  At the end of his time there, it is said that he came back with peace and was able to be as Christ was to the world.  Just to clarify, Anthony didn't believe he was the Christ, but that he was a vessel used by God to speak to those who came to him.  One cannot be a vessel if one is full of oneself.

And this is where it all comes to a head for me -- I want to be emptied.  I want to be flushed out and detoxified.  In this process of visualizing what these early monks must have gone through in the desert, part of me has yearned for same (in a modern-day setting that includes air conditioning).  As much as I am hesitant to yield some of what is in my heart (because, let's face it, even bad habits can become comfortable), my end-all-be-all desire is to be Christ-like to the world every single day.  I cannot do this if I am full of self.  I must be emptied so that I might be refilled.

After Sunday school, I went to church, and it was there that I began the emptying process.  As we
sang Chris Tomlin's How Great Is Our God, my heart was full of conviction:

Lord, I am sorry that I have viewed life from only my perspective.
Lord, You did not promise us a life free from suffering and pain, but You promised to be with us always. I am sorry that I accused You for not upholding a promise that You never made in the first place.
Lord, I am sorry that I have made my praise conditional, that I have let my feelings of sadness trump the joy that You have placed in my heart.
Lord, I am sorry for all the things that I have held, clutched tight in my fist.  I open my hands to You.


As I confessed, I let go of the guilt and in turn, God filled me with forgiveness.  I let go of expectations that are contrary to His character and received a peace that no matter what the storm, there He will be there -- in the desert, in the blizzard, on a stormy sea, in a valley, or on a mountain top.  Wherever I go, there He is.


Linking with Michelle at Graceful and Laura at The Wellspring.  And, I would love for you to link up Monday night-Wednesday night with Soli Deo Gloria here at Finding Heaven, a place to share your heart and where you are always welcome and always prayed for...

Also, my Sunday school teacher rocks, so you can visit Annie here.








Photo source

18 comments :

  1. This " I let go of expectations that are contrary to His character and received a peace that no matter what the storm, there He will be there" is what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Jen, I need to be emptied of many of the same things you listed. But I know that if I let go of these things that I can be truly learn what it means to be filled - the only way God can fill a person. I really needed to hear this - thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Emptied to be refilled...I like this, and I like your new picture, and should you decide sell your belongings, please remember me when you are getting rid of your art.

    Love you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I often think about Jesus' time in the wilderness, and how the Holy Spirit actually sent him there. That fact has helped me realize that time in the desert, though often lonely and fearful, can be productive and useful -- a growing time...although we may not realize it at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just love it when God meets me at church like that and molds me and changes me from glory to glory. That's what He's doing with you, Jen. It's beautiful, even in the desert.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jen...This is a place we should stay, I think. Emptying out of us so that He can pour in more of Him. I have been in this place for 4 years now, detoxing from man's opinions and traditions, religion tainted by the world...while God refills me with His Spirit and truth. Happy to be on this journey with you, my sister...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hmmm...you have me thinking, Jen. I haven't thought of myself being in a desert place right now, but in one area of my life I definitely am. Maybe I need to quit fighting to get out of it, and instead just relax for my 40 days (or longer) in it and rest in the Lord here. Thank you...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wherever I go, there He is. - reminded me of my favorite verses in psalm 139. Loved what you wrote about deserts too and your deep desire to be empty. I think that is a place we all need to be. Good thoughts

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have learned to truly appreciate the desert. That doesn't mean I'm one of those who would say I embrace the desert. It's still hot and dry and dusty. But one thing I know for sure is that God is right in the middle of it. Every single time.

    And can I just tell you how much the words "Sunday School" make me smile? Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I just really appreciate all that those two words conjure up. So sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for sharing this, Jen. Wherever I go, He is...that packs a lot of punch, doesn't it? I, too, want to be emptied and re-filled.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It is better to voluntarily enter the desert than to be thrust into the desert. I have been wandering for some time...but there has often been an oasis. I know that God is making me better in the process. Have you ever heard of the poem by Browne about emptying self of self? I think I used it in one of my posts..http://wp.me/p1pPE2-b2

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is a great perspective. I had thought the same way as you about the dessert being a dry period. Yet, I've learned that there is a time of planting seeds, a time of waiting, and a time of harvest. If it's not harvest, it can feel like the dessert. Yet, how necessary and intentional the planting and waiting are.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Such a good post and good thoughts. I desire to be emptied too and detoxified. "Wherever I go, there He is." This gives me courage to let myself be emptied and hope in Him that I will be filled with the things of Him. That is my desire!
    I loved hearing you say Sunday School too:) We always said that in OK. even as adults, but when I came here to KY, the adults go to ABF. . .(Adult Bible Fellowship). I just cannot get used to that! Sunday School still slips out:)

    ReplyDelete
  14. My daughter sang yesterday, "Broken and spilled out, just for love of you, Jesus." Unless we empty ourselves for Jesus we can't be used. I like the filling better than the emptying. So human. God's best work many times is done while we're in the desert.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I must be emptied so that I might be refilled. What insight! Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. I believe God is stirring a emptying and a brokenness in the lives of His people...because He wants to fill up and make us whole. His power is so evident then!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jen, this was lovely. It reminds me of a song that goes something like this..."Strip away all that remains..til there's nothing left"...a great song.

    I'm restoring a piece of furniture right now and I'm chiseling off all the icky old paint, and God has really used this experience to teach me some things. He's always at work :).

    ReplyDelete
  17. The desert is a beautiful place, but not for the faint of heart, eh?!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have found these desert places to be great places of learning. And filling. But, yes, the emptying out must happen first. Beautiful post, Jen. You've got me thinking about the open hands again :).

    ReplyDelete

Don't go yet! Leave me a note with your thoughts.