Originally published through Church of the Holy Communion's Sacred Presence Blog
Not that I ever doubt the words from the pulpit, but for me, no words have ever become more alive than the ones Father Sandy shared in his sermon just prior to Lent. He referred to Lent as a time to reflect on where we have become separated from God. He referred to the wilderness as “Holy Ground” where we can face our demons, name our fears and see God's divinity. He called it “a place where it is good for us to be there. Not easy, but good.”
On Ash Wednesday, I shared the plan (www.holycommunion.org/a-sacred-presence/posts/chemo-done-grateful-mom-now-using-six-weeks-of-lent-to-) for my Lenten discipline based on a suggestion from Sandy. Prior to Ash Wednesday, my friend and wilderness journey partner, Eryn McEwan Seavey in Boston, and I each selected six roles/areas of our lives we would consider during the six weeks of Lent.
We talked weekly, reflecting on our experiences. Before we began, it all seemed so tidy in its well-planned structure. I now imagine this wild wilderness compassionately looking at us on Day One saying, “Are you sure you want to do this, because when you choose to step in here, you might never be the same again.”
The roles I thought I was going to examine changed as the weeks progressed. I was constantly surprised by how powerful the revelations were as I considered what to keep, what to let go and what to grow. We now have six sheets of paper filled with what we are letting go. I’ll be bringing them to the Good Friday evening service, knowing they will add much to the Easter Vigil flame.
As challenging as it was, this life-changing experience became part of my daily rhythm as my willingness to listen grew. Although we had questions to ponder each week, one day I asked the wilderness what it wanted to tell me. (Note to self: DO NOT ASK THE WILDERNESS DIRECT QUESTIONS UNLESS YOU WANT TO HEAR THE ANSWERS.)
I don’t know how to tell the whole story of the journey yet. Instead I offer exactly what the wilderness told me, word for word. The day I asked, I happened to be on a plane in the wilderness of the sky. I asked:
What do you, the voice of the wilderness, want to say to me about this area of my life? Where’s the devil, the serpent and temptation here? Where do I need help to say “get back Satan?” What’s in my way? Here’s what I heard, 15,700 feet above earth, in that blue space full of currents that didn’t calm themselves to make the journey easier.
The gift of the wilderness is the chance to get a little roughed up. To see what we can’t see in what we spend all day trying to make pretty and perfect. You ask where the devil is? It’s always the thing, in any role or situation, that keeps you separate from the fullness of self. It’s easy to distract your human self. You aren’t deep enough into your spirituality. Too human-focused. Staying connected to your eternal self gives you the chance to connect and tap into ancient mysteries. You cannot hear until you sit still to listen in silence. You are a Spirit In Training (S.I.T.) You are the only thing in your way…habits, disconnection, needing to be reminded of your own strength. Tune into the nuances, the subtle ways I bring you back to your focus. The movement of a tree, the shape of a heart in the concrete, the visitors in your dreams, the sunrise reflecting back at you in the windows. There’s no need to hide. No need at all. I’ll keep you safe. It’s not all as big as you believe it is. Keep your eyes on me. You don’t have to be understood. Just learn more about how to observe and feel. Respond only when you want or when it feels necessary.
And then I heard this:
the reflection of your guiding light,
your lighthouse in the storms of life,
Inner peace and connection,
clear, joyful, wise,
yet full of mystery.
Now it’s Holy Week, but my heart longs to linger with the wisdom from the wilderness. My prayer is to take time to continue to be still, but to shift the focus, return the favor and be there for Jesus. Can I take what I have learned during Lent and be more aware? Will I feel the poignancy of the altar stripped bare and the consequences of betrayal? Can I stay awake in the Garden as others predictably fall asleep? Will I hear the story anew and listen more deeply to how it speaks to me? Will I appreciate that moment when darkness gives way to light?
The last time I went into a journey asking big questions, I got more than I expected. May Easter Monday arrive with fresh bits of astonishment of what happens when I show up willing to listen for God.