The seasons have changed once again–both physically and spiritually. Summer is my least favorite season; I know that in some places it’s lovely, but I don’t live in one of those places. It is uncomfortable, often oppressive. The sun is hot, the wind is hot. Cicadas fill the air with a drone that dampens other sounds, creating a kind of strange quietness. Most of the delicate things of Spring cannot withstand the heat. Clouds and rain become rare, unless a big tropical storm or hurricane spins them up this way–but I don’t want them at that cost.
I know it could also be worse; I don’t exactly live in a desert. Spiritually, however, I feel like I’m in the middle of a desert. It’s like a completely different world. In the Spring, I was grateful that my life had changed with the seasons, but I should have known that Summer would take over. Somber, oppressive, tiring Summer, and spending it alone in the desert.
The rosy new relationship that had brought so much new happiness and hope has wilted away, its soothing blooms replaced with wounding thorns. I thought I might be able to hold on to it and maybe revive it. But it’s proven too difficult and painful.
And I already have other difficulties and pains that I have no choice but to bear. My loss and grief for my father’s death have increased, along with my yearning for his strong and dependable support and warmth and counsel and reassurance. April brought the anniversary of his passing; June brings Father’s Day and his birthday, which are now and always will be commemorated in a cemetery.
I know I’m not really alone. I know. But I feel alone. And I am lacking the sense of my own worth that my dad, more than anybody else, gave and reinforced for me. Again, I know I have worth, and that nobody can take it from me–but I don’t feel it. My heart is parched and thirsting. It feels barren. Everything feels barren.
In the same way, I know that God exists and that He loves me and provides for me. But the feeling and the certainty are nowhere to be found.
The desert is where faith, hope, and love become acts of sheer will. It’s a test, a training drill. I’ve been here many times, in many circumstances, and have come through it with varying degrees of success–but always better than I was. I understand what it is, and I see the purpose and the ultimate reward–but that doesn’t make it easier. It’s a place where one must face death. People and relationships die. Sometimes, they disintegrate quickly and completely, as with my romance. Sometimes, they just change so radically and earth-shakingly that your entire life must become re-oriented and re-built, as with my father’s death.
It’s also a “Memento mori” place where you must face your own death that is coming, be it in a very near or still-faraway moment. While we hope in the afterlife, death is still death, and we will experience it as such–a moment where everything and everybody we’ve ever known falls away from us, we lose every feeling and sense of joy and love, and we are alone. Whatever eternity lies beyond it, we will experience death as death, even if for a brief instance. That is part of what it means to be human. Even Christ, in His humanity, had to experience this, hence his cry, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”
Likewise, Christ spent time in the desert–both physical and spritual desert–in preparation for His life’s work and for His death. And so, I am hardly alone in this season and this place–all Christians must follow Christ, and the desert is part of this. I know it’s not supposed to be easy. But please, in your charity, offer up a little prayer for me to be steadfast of will and keep my eyes on the prize!
(Photo source: Chris Schenk, U.S. Geological Survey)