You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. –Ephesians 4:22-24, NRSV
The call to simplicity in our spiritual lives is not an easy one to follow, I believe, because it forces us to confront our individualistic illusions of self-sufficiency. In his book called Eager to Love about St. Francis of Assisi and Franciscan spirituality, Rohr says, “In terms of spirituality, as in good art, less is usually more. Or, to put it another way, small is beautiful. Only by continually choosing a philosophy of ‘less’ that is willing to wait for God’s ‘more,’ will we grow and transform, since we have then learned to be taught by smallness and ordinariness…[Francis] rebuilt the spiritual life on ‘love alone,’ and let go of the lower-level needs of social esteem, security, self-image, and manufacturing of persona.” –Dustin Davis, Disarmingly Simple
- What illusions of self-sufficiency is the Lenten season calling you to confront?
- When have you been transformed by “love alone?”
- Prayerfully dwell with Ephesians 4:22-24. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?
Upon my bed at night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
“I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.”
–Song of Solomon 3:1-2, NRSV
To experience the absence of God is also to experience God’s presence. So did the sparseness and bare simplicity of the desert strip Jesus of all but the most essential truths of his life? Did the lack of water, did his thirst, did his hunger reveal to Jesus a deeper thirst and a more driving hunger? Did it show him the deepest desire of his heart, to live as God’s Beloved to the fullest potential of his divine humanity? Did he discover that it mattered more to him to encounter a Living God than to limit his experience of God to moments of comfortable and comforting emotions? Did Jesus experience God’s absence in the wilderness as another face of God’s presence? And did his experience of Absent Presence sustain him for what lay ahead?
During this season of Lent, I simply invite you to test these possibilities against the realities of your own life. When and where has the hidden presence of God been revealed in your wilderness times of desert barrenness? –Laurie Gordon, The God of Barren Landscapes
- When has absence revealed to you what really matters?
- When and where has the hidden presence of God been revealed in your wilderness times of desert barrenness?
- Prayerfully dwell with Song of Solomon 3:1-2. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain. Even lowly jackals will have water to drink, and barren grasslands flourish richly. –Isaiah 36:6-7, MSG
Hidden presence revealed in the subtle, vibrant buzz of life. In the desert, that hidden presence is water; in the desert of the spirit, it is God from whom life arises and thrives.
We need only look to our own lived encounters with Divine Mystery to detect currents of experience that seem to both affirm and deny Holy Presence. Times of loss and desolation remind us that, at least as far as human perception goes, God is not always here. “Trying to give one’s life to God can be a very lonely business, especially when God often seems absent,” laments the priest Felix in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Severed Wasp. And yet life’s suffering is sweetly balanced with startling eruptions of joy as absence gives way to the awareness of loving presence that gives and sustains life. –Laurie Gordon, The God of Barren Landscapes
- Where do you discover the Spirit’s hidden presence in the seemingly barren places of your life?
- When has your perception been that God is absent? When has absence given way to “the awareness of loving presence that gives and sustains life?”
- Prayerfully dwell with Isaiah 36:6-7. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?