The season of Lent always stirs up images of entering a desert for me. I am brought back to memories of sitting in our gold van perched in my reclined chair with a pillow as I stared out the car window into the vast abyss of compacted rock forming a sea of brown. I think about the times I’ve been mesmerized by the National Geographic aerial photos, capturing the unseen patterns of the cracked earth worn from years under the piercing sun. The desert can seem mysteriously appealing from afar, yet becomes daunting at the thought of stopping the car, letting go of the security of its protective structure, the comfort of my plush pillow, and willingly walking across the cracked earth to the center of the desert.
I imagine willingly following Jesus into a desert. It requires courage to follow Him into the desert, not as a stop along a journey, but as the destination itself. Yet, I believe for some of us this is the invitation this Lent. The invitation is to allow ourselves to step out of the car, look away from the screen, and enter the reality of the desert with Jesus.
It’s important to note that Jesus does not invite us into the desert alone. He doesn’t invite us into the desert just for the sake of a challenge. The discomfort, the solitude, the silence makes us keenly aware of the true thirsts of our soul. What do we really thirst for? What does our heart ache for as we sit in the vast isolation of the desert stripped of all distractions, comforts, and patterns in our lives? Is it Him? Is it power? Control, beauty, or recognition?
My friend, take a moment to sit in the desert, really, close your eyes and dare to imagine with me. As you sit in the desert the Spirit invites you, come aware of the thirsts of your heart, the longing of your soul. There is no need to feel shame or embarrassment, for Jesus is already aware, He has not abandoned you in the desert to sit in your sin (Micah 7:8-9). Jesus brings us to this place of recognition, this place of total awareness of one’s humanity, to let our hearts feel His thirst for each of us. His deep deep longing for his son or daughter to be held by His love.
The more I settle in the stillness of the desert the more I become aware of my discomfort of simply sitting. I do not have ways to easily define, prove, or display who I am or who I want to be. There is not a to-list to distract me from the motions of my heart. There is nowhere or thing to hide from. No excuse or worldly noise stopping me from entering prayer. So I sit on the hardened soil. I become keenly aware of my breath, the dust accumulating on my body, and the hidden sounds of the desert. I sit, I listen, I let go, and when I am ready, I look up and receive the gaze of the one who invited me to this place. The one who I did not notice from the comfort of the gold van passing by in haste. Jesus had to call me to the desert this Lent to simply sit with Him. To simply slow down and come to a place to receive His gaze. I do not know what else He may show me or lead me to this Lent, but I do believe all He asks of me is to not return to the comfort of the gold van. He is asking me to stay with Him in the desert, for I believe He may have more to share with me, as He may with you.
Lent ends with Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection. Jesus endures merciless suffering and hanging on the cross says the words I hope you hear as you stay in the desert with him, “I THIRST….” (John 19:28). In His moment of profound suffering, the Savior of the world was thirsting for you to know and receive His love. He is inviting us this Lent to put down our water jugs, or temporary goods, and come receive the Living Water (John 4:28, 4:10). Come receive Him as the one who can satisfy the thirsts of our hearts. Do you believe He will do this for you? Do you believe the Savior of the world who thirsts for you on the cross still thirsts for you all the more?
Go to the desert with Jesus, let Him bring you to a place where you can encounter your humanity and come aware of all the worldly thirsts of your heart. Let Him quench your thirst with the Living Water, the one that will lead you to eternal life (John 4:10).
As you sit with Jesus in the desert, I invite you to pray with the words of Mother Teresa’s meditation. Remember, He thirsts for you at this very moment –
“No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change: I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day- standing by the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you:”I THIRST….” (John 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm-verses I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…”(Ps 69:21). All your life I have been looking for your love- I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before”.Mother Theresa