When we don't know where to begin, we get desert. And then sometimes when we have been in that place for a while, we get more desert.
I have been out of writing this blog for a few months. It was not intentional. Work demands had been had been growing menacingly until I hit a wall. My husband and I were heading up north on a Sunday morning and God played a love song for our souls. Mendelson's Psalm 42 came on the radio. Psalm 42 had been threading it's way through our lives over the past weeks through my yoga teaching and the lectionary at church.
In it the psalmist thirsts for God above his tears that have been his food day and night — above his need to cry out and complain and lament and pity himself. He comes over all of the "whys" about his situation several times. Even his sentimental feelings about the temple, festivals and the places where he felt God the most will not lift him up.
He is in a wilderness place.
Like Elijah in the cave.
Like the John the Baptist subsisting for locusts and honey.
Like the Israelites on foot making circles in open places.
A poet taught the meaning of all of this once. He said that in our urban, suburban and even rural lives we have trees. Subtle in our minds these trees help to scale us to our environment. We have limbs and trunks. Trees have limbs and trunks. We orient ourselves to this reality.
In wilderness places there is very little vegetation, let alone trees. In the desert all we see is land and brush and sometimes mountains. Therefore when we are in the desert, our perceptions of ourselves in relationship to space becomes altered. Eccentrics and mystics are drawn to these places because of their penchant for an altered reality.
In our lives and practices we find wilderness. And when we go deeper we often encounter more desert.
Our meditations become lonely and cavernous.
We scrounge for locusts and honey in our teachers' words.
We wander in seemingly endless circles from yoga class to yoga class.
Know this: the wilderness is not punishment. Quite the opposite. It is a gift.
When we find ourselves in these places God is shifting our cognition.He is allowing this space to alter our perceptions. I spiritual way of being is coming that will be so different from our current experience. Be ready as the psalmist was when he told his should "to put your trust in God..."
Yes, the wilderness is a place where we meet suffering, self-abandonment and frustration head on. Yet the wilderness is also a place owned and operated by the Spirit. It is where our hearts and minds are trained for higher purposes and expanded. It is the place where solution becomes acceptance, gratitude and hope. Consider yourself worthy of desert places.
(Enjoy Heavenfaced by The National. It resonates with desert places.)