When I arrived that morning I was thirsty, having downed a good bit of coffee and a little milk with breakfast, but no water. But I’d already asked to use her bathroom and felt on some sub-conscious level that asking for water might be too much. So as we sat talking and praying together in that sunlit room filled with windows and plants, as my spirit was fed and nourished, my body was thirsty.
As she spoke about the desert and the call for us to follow Jesus there, the dryness in my mouth became pronounced and the heat from the gas fireplace beside me grew to feel like the harsh light of the mid-day sun. I felt the dryness of sand growing in and around me, as though the room itself was being transformed into the desert. And in the midst of that, a panic arose in me and I said with urgency, “I don’t want to go into the desert. I feel like winter itself has already been a desert and I can’t handle any more.”
These last few weeks since advent and maybe even before then, have felt barren and empty to me. There's a dryness to parenting four young children through winter in this small dry house where we fill three humidifiers multiple times a day. Each day is a barren stretch from the time my husband walks out the door ‘til the moment he comes home and I hold my breath and plod along, parched and weary, too often running on empty.
Maybe I’m being melodramatic. Maybe. But as we talked, my friend suggested that there are many ways to enter into Lent and that maybe I could take on the practice of documenting the desert by simply being aware of the desert.
So I am. And, as far as I can tell right now, it’s dry and empty and I thirst.
* * *
I picture Jesus standing on the outskirts of everything, his feet sinking into the steadily warming sand as he looks back, his arm outstretched toward me. He is silhouetted, enshadowed, by the glare of the unknown, the open, empty expanse of the desert, and I'm hesitant to enter it with him.
But as I pause, holding back, I’m reminded of the blossoms of the desert, those flowers, rare and colorful that thrive in the heat and sand. As he waits, something in me shifts and it's the possibility of beauty and life even there, where it should not be, that lifts my feet and moves me forward and for now, this is enough.
Christ in the Wilderness - Consider the Lilies by Stanley Spencer
What practices feed your spirit and nourish you during Lent? What questions or hesitations do you bring into this season?