A few days ago I saw the movie Wild. Even when my dodgy knees were years younger I would never have had the will or the courage to walk, alone, almost 2,000 kilometres through desert and wilderness. But as a young adult I did live in areas of Australia that geographically are defined as desert. The memory of that time colours my understanding of the words that every year lead us into the first Sunday of Lent: “The Spirit drove Jesus out unto the wilderness and he remained there forty days . . .”
Even though Australia is 70% desert, only 3%make it their home. Our experience of desert is limited and mostly hearsay. Terry Monagle, a writer who died in 2008, wrote, ‘As an Australian, I have often been puzzled by the use of the desert metaphor. I want someone who is going to use the metaphor, and apply the tradition of desert spirituality to modern times, to have actually a deep experience of a physical desert.’
The desert is religious shorthand for those mysterious inner places that we keep hidden behind the edges of the secure and structured world in which we live. The prophet Hosea experienced his desert something like this: “I will lead you into the desert, and there I will speak to your heart” (Hosea 2:14).
Over the next six weeks of Lent I will be using Australian desert imagery to put words around the myriad ways God speaks to our heart. The early Australian explorers entered the desert lands at their own peril, fearful of what lay there. Maybe that is the whole point of Lent: to move into the desert places in our lives – and find Life.
The little girl hovered around the teacher on yard duty. Boys hurtled by chasing a football, girls sat in clumps or played complicated chasing games. “I’ve got no-one to play with”, a little voicesaid. She was about six, wearing a uniform that was too big for her and sneakers that had seen better days, probably on someone else’s feet. We have all been that little girl. Maybe it goes back to childhood, quite possibly a part of those dicey adolescent years, but could be as recent as last week. It’s not just lepers who feel left out or excluded. Read more
Of Course I Will is a Gospel reflection for the 6th Sunday of Year B. You’ll find it on the Connexions page.