I had planned to write on another subject, one dealing with professionalism and ethics in the church, but maybe I’ll write on that another day. While thinking about the subject of ethics, I remembered something that happened at my internship site years ago – something few people in my industry allow themselves to embrace, let alone experience.
My internship was at a site where I gave back to my community, as was once given to me in my own youth. I worked with kids who were thrown away by their parents for whatever reason or else sold into a very dark and dangerous underworld; again, not something many people even know exists. One case, in particular, hit me hard and at the termination of the counseling relationship I cried deeply from my soul.
Rarely have I experienced moments in my life where I cry so deeply that I, in the end, challenge the existence of my Creator. This was one of those times and with the help of a dear friend and confidant, I was able to work through some of the horrors of this particular case. More importantly, though, I was able to work through my relationship with the Divine and heal through the pain I was experiencing in my “desert moment”.
I like the analogy of the desert. Having lived in Arizona for a few years I can honestly say I know a dry-spell when I see one – or in this case experience it. I know, too, the depths of torment from flash floods and dust storms. In the desert, one knows to be on the watch for snakes and scorpions – it becomes automatic after a while. When that happens, one can enjoy the beauty of the desert for what it really is – awesome. In life, though, the pitfalls and dangers are not always so obvious.
But as in life, the desert blooms when it receives just the right amount of water and nutrients. It becomes a vibrant and color filled world that is both dangerous and glorious at the same time. It all depends on our outlook and what we’re prepared to deal with at the moment.
We all have deserts deep inside us where we wander alone, vulnerable, mortal. Admittedly, why would any of us want to face our darkest moments? Because we are never alone – we journey to find our highest good through those who have gone before us. But first we must recognize our need to be transformed.
Even our Christ had +His own desert experience. Little is said of his 40-day ritual except: “1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Mt 4:1-2). We can only imagine his hunger and pain, the animals he may have encountered, the rough cold nights and blistering heat, and the final humiliation of being tested by the great deceiver. But, as can we all, +He found his center – his core being – and walked out of the desert ready to embark on a necessary journey of trial and transformation. If we use the Christ as an example of how to live our lives then our desert moments can become a transformative process. That process involves deep introspection, change, and eventual release of unhealthy habits whether mental, emotional, or spiritual. That almost sounds like a Lenten theme, but we have changed Lent to be about giving up chocolate or making additional New Year’s resolutions; and if giving up superfluous stuff works for you then spectacular, but if not perhaps start looking at the transformative process through the eyes of our Christ – as an opportunity for deep internal awareness and a chance for redemption – and ultimately peace.
Just as there are flowers in the desert, there are flowers in our own lives. Sometimes they are easy to find and at other times more difficult or far and few between. But they are there waiting for us to open our eyes or for us to pause at the side of the road to rest and regain our strength. They are there waiting for the nourishing rain and nutrient rich fertilizer. They are there waiting for us to realize they’ve been there all the while.
So what happened so many years ago that caused me to question the existence of the Creator? It doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that I was able to find my way through it all and come out on the other end a better person for having had the experience. What matter is that even the desert has beauty when we open our eyes to see the blossoms.