desert: imposed or chosen

The desert is sometimes imposed. Sometimes it is chosen.

In Mark 1:12 it says that the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the desert. The verb used is the very same verb used for when Jesus drove out evil spirits. It’s like he didn’t have a choice. It’s like he didn’t have time to think or prepare. Suddenly, he abruptly and violently found himself there and had to deal with it. He not only had to deal with the desert, but with what came with it… wild beasts, Satan, temptation and evil. Here there is darkness, loneliness, uncertainty, doubts, questions, choices, temptation, anguish, alienation, deprivation.

As the gospel of Mark progresses we notice Jesus making his way into the desert by choice. He goes there to escape the clamor of the crowds looking for the next best show. He goes there to escape the vacuous and insular spirituality that infests the land. He goes there to escape the craziness of religious fervor. He goes there to escape the rampant hypocrisy that flatters him on one hand and would murder him with the other. Here, Jesus has learned to live with uncertainty, doubts, questions, temptation, alienation and even deprivation. They’ve become his sanctuary.

I am in a desert now. I can’t decide if I’ve been driven here or if I’ve chosen it. If it’s imposed I’m taking it on. That is my choice. I am acutely aware of uncertainty, doubts, questions, temptation, alienation and deprivation. I am enveloped in darkness and loneliness. But these have become my friends, my sanctuary, my shelter. This is my home. I can be found here more often than not.

But I am waiting for direction. I am waiting for clarity. I am waiting for wisdom on how to assimilate all this and be of compassionate service to every other being.

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17 Responses

  1. Tracy says:

    Imposed or chosen?
    Are there other possible options to consider?

    Both options, “I can’t decide if I’ve been driven here or if I’ve chosen it” require agency of some sort — either from within or from without.

    Are there other possibilities??

  2. nakedpastor says:

    any ideas tracy?

  3. Lynelle says:

    I’m with you in the desert, David. Getting tired of it, though. How much of where we are is actually a deeper part of ourselves agreeing with God that this is where we belong?

    Deeper wisdom . . . deeper self; one with Christ . . knows . . .?

  4. Steve Martin says:

    I think we all feel that way now and again.

    But that is not what the Lord wills for us. he wills that we drink of the Living Water…Himself. It often seems He lets us get to the end of our rope before He gives us a new start.

    And when this life is over, He will refresh and revive us for the last time, never again to need it.

  5. Michael says:

    David,
    I look forward to what emerges from this part of The Journey. I appreciate your paradigm.
    And I await with eager anticipation your emergence from the desert. As I recall, there was a great party where the best wine flowed after one such emergence . . .

  6. nakedpastor says:

    michael: i like parties.

  7. Andrew says:

    I think the days of clarity are over. 🙂

  8. nakedpastor says:

    haha ya andrew i wonder

  9. I was in “the desert” for a few years. The year I was in the seminary was the worst. The doubts were the product my study and for quite a while all I had left was the memory of the emotion I once had.

    Finally I literally went to the desert, Jordan to be precise, for an archaeological dig. I had a lot of time to think and figure things out. I then tried to preach an evangelistic series in Mexico, but four sermons in I couldn’t continue. The silence was the answer. I had found my clarity and today I am very happy to be an atheist.

    David, if you want to read more of my story you can find it on my blog.

  10. Tracy says:

    Imposed or chosen both imply agency, either from outside ourselves or from within.

    Being ‘driven’ into a desert (or a dark night of the soul) usually implies that God wants to teach us something.

    The idea of ‘chosing a desert’ usually implies there’s something I’ve done wrong and the desert is the consequences.

    In both cases, the experience of the desert is the person’s fault. They either need to learn something (be punished) for some personal lack or they must bear the consequences of their action.

    However, it may not be the person’s ‘fault’ — it might not be imposed or chosen.

    Other possibilities:
    The desert is empty and barren because one’s perceptions are correct — the desert is empty and barren.

    or

    The desert is empty, barren, and lonely because one was told to expect one thing, but reality reveals another.

    Usually when things don’t make sense, there is a reason why. It’s how we know when something is wrong.

    Over time, we add things up and then there comes a moment when we know what the answer will be, but we are afraid to press the ‘equals’ key…

    I love the direction, clarity and wisdom of this: compassionate service to every other being.

  11. james says:

    But I am waiting for direction. I am waiting for clarity. I am waiting for wisdom on how to assimilate all this and be of compassionate service to every other being.

    Maybe the above thought is holding you back from fully embracing the present moment and finding the beauty within the desert place. Isn’t part of the being in the desert embracing nothingness, anonyminity, at-one-ness, aloneness, pointlessness, letting go and time of internal inspection. May-be you need to let go of direction, clarity and thinking of others and lose yourself in this moment and not thinking about the next moment.

    In terms of imposed or chosen- maybe the desert could be seen as a gift and a surprise and something that we need although we would never willingly chose it.

  12. I don’t think we choose the desert nor that it is inflicted upon us. I think we choose to seek a higher/different spiritual experience and that the desert is a by product of that choice. The transitioning place in our spirits doesn’t yet make sense to our minds so we enter a place that seems dark and lonely. Our consciousness has not yet caught up with our souls.

  13. obscuritus says:

    The idea of “desert”, “wilderness”, and “absence” is incredibly biblical. My own situation has illuminated my understanding of and appreciation for this part of God’s strategy in helping us discover ourselves and God. While the story of Jesus being driven into the wilderness is truly relevant, I also find encouragement in Jesus’ absence for 30 years. Imagine the wonder of the shepherds as time passed with no apparent Messiah. Perhaps Jesus struggled wondering when his “coming out” party would be.
    There is Joseph in the Egyptian prison, Moses in Midian, Elijah at the brook, and perhaps my favorite, Paul in Tarsus. Your blog prompted me to share my thoughts on Paul’s wilderness in my blog today. Perhaps you’ll find some additional encouragement as you reflect with me on what Paul must’ve gone through after being shipped to Tarsus at the height of what appeared to be great success. obscuritus.blogspot.com

  14. I think the desert is always self imposed. From my experience it’s the product of cognitive dissonance. The only way to resolve it is to let go of the idea that you’re trying so hard to hang on to.

  15. Crystal says:

    David:
    We are always alone, even when in the middle of a densly populated city or at a party. We live inside our individual minds. When are we humans going to get that truth? It is the incredible strength of the human spirit that enables us to be alone and still hope. When we are alone, it is then that God can reach us. That is why, as you said, Jesus went into the desert. Perhaps you find yourself in the desert because your sub-concious drew you there. You said you are on a journey. Some journeys have to be taken alone. The true test of a seeker.

  16. Crystal says:

    The Preacher Lady:
    “our consciousness hasn’t yet caught up with our souls” is an interesting statement. I think we all need to dwell more on that concept. We are far more than this physical body we live in.

  17. Ant says:

    David, thank you once again for the courage to be open with us all.

    To be honest I am starting to understand some of the gospel stories in a Jewish light I am not aware of what Jewish story Jesus’ time in the desert refers to but it does remind me of Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale and in the desert where he is forced to realise that he is at odds with God. This does not seem to fit with Jesus in the wilderness tho. But who knows.

    I dont think that we choose the desert or it chooses us – I think it just is and I think its a part of growing and as you say being comfortable with the questions, doubts and what not. That is our natural state not the other way around, certainty and comfort are illusions of our own making. If we are intelligent and growing then we will have questions and doubts and all that sort of thing and thats what being alive is about. Its when we believe the illusions that we cease to think and are merely existing and not truly alive.

    Not that I’ve got this down pat – I still love the comforts and want to have answers instead of questions. One thing has has helped me tho and its a lovely wisdom-style proverb:

    “I seek not to know the answer, but to understand the question.”

    This taught me to look at it from a different angle and that if I understand the question I might have the answer or more likely I will ask a different question altogether based on a new understanding. Life is a journey and there are no destinations.