Wilderness Theology: Living the Desert Experience in Lent

This Lent, I will focus on what Christians masters for centuries have called, “The Wilderness Experience.” The Lenten journey, more than any other phase of the Church Calendar, can be misconstrued.  With acts of penitence, fasting, and self-examination, we too easily focus on what we can do or can abstain from.  We miss the main point.    True, Lent is about the journey to the cross. We focus on our role in putting Jesus there.  But it is not about having to feel bad about ourselves for a couple of months.  It is about true humility and being honest with ourselves.  And ultimately, it is about what some have called.  “Union with the Divine Mystery.”

In her book, “A Practical Guide to Spiritual Reading,” author Susan Muto outlines the desert experience as union with God.  She writes,

“The desert is thus a place away from the bustle of noisy living and large numbers of people.  To go there is to be shaken out of the ordinary humdrum acceptance of things and to reflect on their deeper meaning–a meaning conveyed only in solitude and silence…There in the interior desert, I have to wait patiently and trust that God will give me what I need if I but learn to depend on divine love more and more.  To come to live always in the divine presence from that deepest center or self is the purpose of desert experience.  Readying us for this experience and its inestimable benefits is the aim of this reading program.”

In the Desert Experience, Muto outlines ten minor themes from which I will pull my reflections for the next six weeks.   I will write one reflection on each theme:

  1. The Desert: Without and Within
  2. Silence and Solitude in the Desert Experience
  3. Reflective Dwelling and Desert Experience
  4. Prayer and Desert Experience
  5. Self-Knowledge and Desert Experience
  6. Patience and Acceptance of Suffering in Desert Experience
  7. Trust and Dependence in Desert Experience
  8. Self-Emptying and Detachment in Desert Experience
  9. Awakening Through Desert Experience
  10. Surrender and Commitment in Desert Experience
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