Entering The Desert, Tilling The Soil

Continuing on my recent theme of detachment, this post from earlier this year (at Patheos) still resonates with me. In fact, even more so today.

Readers who have been following my posts can pretty easily discern a few things:

1) Religiously, as a relatively recent Catholic revert back after 41-years away, I am still learning many of the basic tenets of my faith. Infusing my every day mortal life with its richness and fullness will surely take whatever remaining years I have left.

I often get things wrong. But I remain open – sometimes even willingly – to criticism and correction;

2) Politically, I am generally, but not always, a right-of-center voter with long and favorable – if modest – ties to the national Republican party, having once proudly run under its banner for state office, the New York State Assembly;

3) Morally, I set pretty high, but still realistically achievable, goals and standards concerning my own conduct and behavior. But I crash and burn often. Multiple times a day. And that necessarily compels my attention away from the sometimes more modest failings of my brothers and sisters – but not always. Another crash and burn.

As my country now enters, full swing, into the most bizarre Presidential election year in my lifetime, and as I watch sparring, increasingly hate-fueled factions arising in both the body politic and in the body of Christ, I stand before you deeply dismayed.

Not to mention confused, angry, despondent, agitated, disturbed, and forlorn. It feels as if I have entered, alone, into the desert.

Suddenly isolated, utterly alienated, shockingly hopeless.


There are days, such as today, that screaming like a maniac, throwing a tantrum, and having a big, old-fashioned, unrestrained, verbal outburst at the next lunatic rantings I am forced to endure on social media seem to be the most reasonable and most rational responses that I can muster.

But still and all, no.

So I am deliberately taking a step back. And thinking. And trying to use this walk through this desert at this time to better understand myself, my inter-connectedness with the world, and, most of all, to discern my best way forward.

I think that the imagery of the desert is actually quite helpful, if not perfect.

The desert stands as a useful metaphor for what some have referred to as their own spiritual dryness – those times when they have felt isolated from, and even abandoned by, God.

I know only just a little about Ignatian Spirituality, but from what I have recently run across, there does seem to be some very good guidance for times such as these.

In fact, Father Kevin O’Brien SJ has provided us with some very helpful advice about dryness in prayer that I believe is also applicable to this somewhat larger context.

These words have entered my life at a time when I am preparing to take a modest step back and a guided step down:

God may be gently tilling the soil of your soul for some future harvest, preparing the ground for a bold insight or a deeper emotional experience to come.

God may use the times of dryness to heighten your sense of God’s presence, so that you will be aware of that presence later in the day or week.

God may invite you to ordinary times to kindle deep desires and longings.

In this case, restlessness is a good thing.

God may simply want to give you a rest after an intense experience of prayer. Enjoy the stillness and quiet.

So, while I am wrestling with my confusion, my isolation, and my own continuing feelings of just-barely-concealed rage, I will force myself to take some quiet, reflective, restful, time before attempting to figure out that path which best leads me out of this specific spiritual and earthly desert.

And I will be listening for what may next be in store for me as this gentle tilling of the soil now gets under way.


Image Credit: Pixabay.com

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