Stay in the desert, examine your path

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Oh no. Why did this happen to me?" the young man lamented.

John was a college student maintaining a full life with big plans for the future. He was working on a degree in social work and he wanted to teach children to dance as part of their therapy.

John was also an awesome waiter at a restaurant in the town where he attended school. Then a traumatic event occurred suddenly, and his plans were abruptly halted. He wondered what he would do.

John was forced to undergo kidney dialysis. He couldn't believe the scenario was happening to him. He questioned if he would ever overcome this dilemma or whether he must abandon his plans for new tomorrows.

John was frightened, saddened and confused. His whole life seemed to be going down the drain. John was unsure if he would ever be able to live without the dialysis.

Fortunately, however, John's health improved and he left the treatment behind. He could finally survive by watching his diet and observing other health rules.

As a consequence of his unanticipated illness John's plans for college graduation were delayed. He was stuck in an environment far from his original home in another state.

John must wait for another semester, and the summer in between, before he can again resume his studies.

He had to adopt a new outlook, relinquish control over his earlier plans, and accept the inevitable. However, rather than moan and complain, John persevered, put on a happy demeanor, and filled his time in constructive ways.

He learned and participated in areas where he had never ventured before. He regained his former job as a waiter in a local restaurant and began helping in a new dance/exercise studio that had just moved to town. This pleased the student because he was experiencing another avenue where he could use his talents as a dancer. God turned an unwelcome condition into an opportunity.

John is still waiting to resume attending the university, but he has regained his confidence.

John was forced into the desert for a while. He was snatched from the path of surety and independence and led into another world -- one of dryness, lack and dependency. He was required to meditate, realign himself and re-evaluate his life.

Due to his misfortune, John is still living in the desert. He is doing what he has to do until the time comes when he can complete his ongoing journey. He must accept his state of affairs yet attempt to keep his spirits high. He looks to find the direction toward which the Holy Spirit is prompting him.

One must sometimes fall down so he can arise again -- a better person. He, too, must enter into the desert -- just as Jesus did.

We are in the season of Lent, a perfect time for people to enter the desert and examine their lives, actions, careers and priorities. Just as Jesus was led into that environment by the Holy Spirit, we too need that sort of environment to genuinely find what's valuable in life. "Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil." (Matthew 4:1-11)

Often when we're experiencing hard times and residing in the desert, we become angry and do nothing. We believe the situation will solve itself without us having to do anything at all. Jesus intends we, at least, listen to the wisdom of the Spirit. It's when we come apart from the daily routine in life that we're able to simply be quiet and open our ears.

Time spent in the desert can be an opportunity. There you're driven to look within. There are no false gods to medicate you.

Lent can be a time you can positively change your life. Just be quiet and listen. Hear what the Holy Spirit is attempting to reveal. Then heed his wisdom.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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