Since Christianity’s third century people committed to our faith often spent part of their lives in the desert. For some the desert was dune covered or barren land far from population centers. For others the desert was a quiet apartment or a farm or even a monastery where they could pray and think long about the God for whom they longed.
These people frequently understood God to be outside of themselves and their world. They spoke of escaping the shallow, sinfulness of life to contemplate the beauty of God and discover how to join with him.
In our time, people seeking God are more likely to feel the need to understand how he’s active in the heart of life. They want to plum life deeply, not escape from it.
What’s really going on here? What’s the future God is offering? Where are we and God working in harmony? Where are we at odds? What do I bring to our project? How can I encourage what’s positive and refrain from and diminish the negative?
These are intense questions of faith. No one finds the answers outside of the world. They require not just involvement with but love for life. Still, love and involvement are sterile without insight. And, as active people know, such insight is usually grabbed on the fly, in the fleeting moment and the startling realization that brings us up short. It’s often visible only against the backdrop of surprising humor, pain or wonder.
Insight, however, can rush by without leaving a trail if it hasn’t a chance to settle in and find a spot of its own. And such spots are found in times of reflection.
To actually live the Christian Way we need a way to spend time reflecting. We don’t all need the same amount of time; we don’t all need the same type of time. But we have to have our own desert: not a place where we can escape but a place where we can make a spot in our minds and hearts for the love between God and people that we witness in life and allow it to make a home in us.