Entering The Desert

Christ in the Desert I.N. Kramskoi (1837-1887)

Stephen Cottrell shares the thought that

To look at these paintings is itself an invitation to enter the desert through the doorway of your imagination (p17)

He then goes on to quote Rowan Williams, saying “a desert is an unpopulated place, and if we are to let God give what God wants we must somehow find that unpopulated place in ourselves” .

The desert is a place where all is stripped away.  We cannot rely on the usual things we rely on.  There is nothing and no one.  Just ourselves and our thoughts – our own inner resources.  In the desert place, we find out exactly what they are, and we discover what they can be.

The wilderness is a place of pain.  A place of not knowing.  A place of utter despair.

But in that place we can find what it is God wants to give us, because we have nothing else left.

Stephen Cottrell goes on to say,

No one owns a desert… We come to it to be alone and to place ourselves in the presence of God… In the desert we are put back in touch with raw and basic necessities.  (p19)

In the desert we have to decide what blocks we are going to use to rebuild our lives.  We have the space to decide that.  The opportunity to turn to God and ask him to give us what he has to give.  To not be dazzled by easy options – that aren’t right.

The bare emptiness of the desert is also a place of expansive discovery (p19)

However painful, we need the desert experience.  To be ourselves before God.  To have the opportunity to take stock, to face our fears and challenges, to allow God to equip us.

We can find ourselves there, and we can find Christ (p19)

I pray that I might.

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts.

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