Lent is a celebration of Spring – new life that, given enough warmth and sunlight, pushes out of the deep soil into bud and flower. Even before the plant makes its thrust into the light, it is growing and incubating in the soil, out of sight. The dark nurture of the soil is the place of the soul and its growth.
I like to think that the story of Jesus’ fast in the wilderness, which we ponder on the first Sunday of Lent, is a story of incubation and growth. The story tells us that Jesus was “driven by the Spirit” into the wilderness. He must have felt a tremendous desire that would give him no peace, and that would not be refused, to go forth, alone, onto the land. Jesus enters the wilderness, experiences temptations, survives them and returns, bearing the gift of his ministry for his people.
Some of us wonder about going into that wilderness ourselves.
What about you? Perhaps you are one of those whose soul cries to go forth, seeking vision, understanding and strength. Perhaps, like Jesus, you are willing to be tested, to gain clarity, to return with vision, bearing your gifts for your people.
Might you be called to a solo time, for prayer, discernment, and vision? Do you feel a desire to get away to experience the solitude of a one-on-one encounter with the Divine? Might that desire exist, even below any resistance that may block it? Might you feel an ancient stirring, connecting you with the Yes of your ancestors, for this ancient rite?
And if you sense a “Yes”, ask yourself, “Why would I want to do this?”
- Do I want to chuck it all and get away from responsibility and obligations for a while?
- Do I want to simply rest and have a space to breathe?
- Do I want to bask in the presence of the Divine?
- Am I expecting a vivid hallucination?
- Do I want a quick transformation?
If you answer Yes to the above questions, you are like many who desire those things, but they will not sustain you in your quest.
But what about this —
- Do I want to mark a passage in my life from one state of being to another?
- Do I want clear knowledge of my gifts, that I may bear them back to my people?
- Do I want to fully experience a vision that may now tease me from my periphery, but which may shake me to my depths?
- Do I want a new way of serving my people?
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
in this place
no one can hear you
and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break…
David Whyte, “All the True Vows”
Do the questions and the poem resonate with you? If so, you may have a Yes to a calling for this solitary encounter.
I have answered Yes at least four times, and each time I have gone out onto the land. My fasts have led me to single days spent on Mt. Tamalpais, on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean, and on the shore of the Navarro River near Mendocino, CA. I have spent twelve days in Death Valley, four of which were spent fasting in solitude on the valley floor. Each time, I left with a gift that shook me to my core, and changed me forever.
I was frightened each time, imagining the horrors that might occur. Darkness! Rattlesnakes! Ticks! Mud slides! Hunger! And the worst imaginable: What if nothing happens? What if I return from the wilderness empty handed, with no gift for my people?
None of what I predicted came true.
All of what I didn’t predict came true.
I was well prepared. The stirring was in my heart, and I was helped by elders to gain clarity of intent. I went with questions. I went with desire to know and claim my gifts, and to dare manifest them in the world. I am still called. Once is not enough for me.
What about you?
Are you called to time apart, to pray and fast, and to receive a vision to carry back to your people?
Simply consider the question for now. Don’t dwell on fears, don’t think about logistics. There will be time for that later.
Many there are who quest for vision. Few there are who return to actually demonstrate the reality of their vision for the people of their world. God said to Moses: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” Moses did as he was told.
Carrying the burning bush in his heart, he returned to his people and proceeded to make his vision a reality. But there are many who do not see or remember the burning bush, nor do they recognize the sacredness of the ground on which they stand. They keep their sandals on. They cannot hear the voice of God above the static of their lives. To every vision faster, the charge is the same: to shoulder the vision of ‘doing’ and to live your myth. *
If you’re curious as to what to do if the call is there and your intent is pure, my next blog entry will be on the first preparation step:
Clarity of Intent
*From The Trail to the Sacred Mountain, by Steven Foster and Meredith Little