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.