Hesychia: Day 2, Week 1

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did go off in the wrong direction again this morning.  This time it took me about 10 minutes to figure it out.  But it’s not my fault.  My navigator app made me do it.

I’ve been thinking all day about why God sent me to the desert, of all places.  Couldn’t I learn to grow spiritually in a more conducive environment?  Couldn’t I have a retreat in a place with more, I don’t know, water? Greenery? Life? Anything?

The desert is an unfriendly place.  It’s prickly.  It’s dangerous.  Everything about the desert says STAY AWAY.  In my own spiritual journey, the desert has represented suffering, pain, drought, darkness, disappointment, desolation, distance from God…pretty much everything terrible you can think of, that’s what the desert represents for me.

And yet, hesychia is desert spirituality.  It’s spirituality specially shaped and informed by the Desert Mothers and Fathers who fled to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in 200-400 AD.  Yep, I took notes!  Hesychia spirituality represents everything my soul is longing for, everything the Holy Spirit within me is drawing me to: rest, stillness, peace, solitude, contemplative prayer.

But why does it have to be in the desert?

As I walked along the paths meandering through the desert behind the retreat center, I kept thinking, I am like the desert.  I can be prickly. I keep people at arm’s length until I feel safe.  In college I was labeled anti-social, although I was really more like un-social.  As much as I love spending time one-on-one with people and having heart-deep conversations over tea or dinner or on a walk, being around groups of people exhausts me.  I often want to retreat. I often want to be alone.  I am extreme, all or nothing.  Even my humor is dry! I am like the desert, but I want to be like the rainforest. I want to be lush and green, warm and inviting, saturated with refreshing water.  I want to be a tree, not a cactus!

So why does this program have to be in the desert? Why does hesychia have to be the spirituality that most resonates within me?

Today as I wandered in the desert, sat on a bench, journaled, wandered some more, I sensed an invitation to receive the ministry of the desert.  The desert has something to teach me, if I am willing to be open to it.  The desert has something that I need, something that my soul is longing for, something that God has prepared before me.

So I have decided to learn to appreciate the desert.  After living in a desert climate for five years, you’d think I’d have adjusted, but I am one stubborn lady!  I still miss the quiet beauty, peace, and comfort of the Appalachian foothills.  Arizona is even more desert-y than California.  If I can’t learn it here, I never will.

Here is what I notice about the desert (positive only):

  • serenity
  • self-sufficiency
  • necessity
  • survival
  • surprise
  • adaptability
  • hidden
  • store
  • away
  • protection
  • boundaries
  • unique
  • unchanging
  • basic
  • rock-solid
  • sand (dust to dust, finite)
  • extreme (hot and cold)
  • dry (notice your thirst)
  • confrontational
  • strong
  • stable
  • fully itself
  • unknowable (air of mystery)
  • teacher
  • slow
  • silent
  • alive
  • simple
  • solitary
  • subtle
  • balanced
  • complex
  • persistent
  • enduring
  • serious
  • counter-cultural

The desert ministers through suffering.  It both mirrors and shapes our inner experience.  It offers empathy, understanding our pain.  It only gives and expects/needs nothing in return.  The desert does not need people to survive.  This is the ministry I must learn to receive while I am here, this ministry of empathy and reflection.

Lord, help me!

 

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