Into the desert I go for fourty days and fourty nights. For fourty days and fourty nights I will detox my attachment to social media, to the bread and circus, to the distractions from being truly present. I will seek stillness. I will seek that still, small voice of my soul, the voice that is often shouted over and down in the chaos of everyday living, and the realities of the world.
It’s not easy to step away like this. Not when I have such a love affair with the fast paced, sensory overloaded, 24/7 lifestyle of this life. Somewhere there is a part of me that needs to constantly connect, a part of me that seems to think it is I who spins the world and if I step back, if I stop then the world will stop spinning too. The problems I might help with will crop up, the fires I put out every day will rage and burn until everything stands in ashes. This is hubris, I know. This tiny part of me that constantly worries that on some level, if I let go of the controls, things will crash.
Conflictingly there exists with in me an anxiety that I am invisible. That the world doesn’t need me at all. The world and all of the people I know and love will carry on without me and like a student returning from a study semester abroad, relationship circles will have closed up and moved on in fast forward, leaving me calling after them soundlessly into the distance.
This is precisely why it is time to enter my own desert. It is time once again for me to try to let go of my attachments and addictions, and to feel that hunger for the things of substance that truly matter. Lent is my time to separate from the world; to remember that faith is not just a feel-good, self-help distraction but a path that answers the deepest questions of life and eternity. Those who journey through their own deserts accept the challenge to face their struggle.
The truth is that It’s not so much about giving up the stuff you enjoy, although that’s a common misconception, even among Catholics. It’s about pairing things down, taking a break from over scheduling our lives and over filling our thoughts with busyness, to creating spiritual space to focus inwardly with out as many distractions and to allow yourself to listen to your heart speaking. It’s about removing barriers to self reflection, leaning into the discomfort of extended “silences”, both literal and figurative, being willing to look at the real reasons we are uncomfortable with our selves and what we want, truly want to reflect back into the world. It’s about scaling back enough on the excesses in order to feel the hunger for growth. When you know you will be having an amazing feast you don’t continue to stuff yourself all day. You want to come hungry. You want to taste every bite of those unique dishes and to appreciate the flavors and the textures and the way they satisfy you.
Scaling back, suspending some things allows for a little hunger to grow, a desire for something satisfying and inspiring, and the discovery along the way, of the things you want most to occupy space in your heart.
Like everyone, I struggle. I struggle with the world, I struggle with my frailties, I struggle with myself. I struggle a lot. My goal is to honestly examine my life in light of God’s goodness and to renew my commitment to change in any areas I have struggled with. Truthfully this is always my goal, but day to day living just has this way of constantly nudging me way off course. And so into my desert I go, to quiet my mind, to simplify my path, to face myself. Into my desert I go to listen to the still, small voice of my soul. I will meet you on the other side in peace.
*Lent is an important annual practice in the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. For Christians, it is a time of self-restraint from food and celebrations. It is a period of self-examination and prayer, and generally following the example of Jesus as he spent 40 days and nights alone in the desert prior to his crucifixion.