It does not take long for us to realize that we are hungry and thirsty after entering the desert. For some it is a few hours, for others it may be a few days.
The absence of the comforts we have grown accustomed to become noticeable. We are no longer receiving any consolation, we no longer experience any sense of peace, we can no longer find solace in the things we usually could.
Once in the desert for more than a few days, perhaps a week even, we become focused on the hunger and thirst, upon the pain of emptiness, and the seeming absence of God. It is impossible to listen, to hear what is happening around us due to our discomfort. The pain can be overwhelming in its intensity.
At some point we will need to make a decision: do we step away from the pain and discomfort and begin journeying deeper into the desert, or do we stay in our current place and then seek to go back to where we were comfortable?
Acceptance of where God has placed us, or rejection of that place? Realize that our pain and suffering is redemptive, or try and repress it, stuff it back down, and run away from it?
If we decide for acceptance and taking the next steps to journey deeper, then we must be prepared to face the coming challenges. If we decide to reject that place and God's call then we must accept the coming weight of responsibility for our action if not in this life then in the next.
When we have accepted the call to journey deeper into the desert, we may face a challenge that can be called the "Great Mirage".
We all have a tendency to place God into what can be termed a "box". That is, He must do, think, and act according to our vision, philosophy, theology, what have you of life. Whether we are conscious that this is our way of being/thinking/praying or not. Another way of putting it is, "my will be done because that is what God's will is".
The Mirage is the distortion of what life is truly about. We permit it to be established in our life by our refusing to open ourselves to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in honesty and integrity. It then becomes our "vision" of what we think life is, however we are the ones in full control.
When the reality of the desert and its challenge given to us by the Father broaches into our vision - into our Mirage, and the Father's challenge is contrary to that vision, we might try and pass it off, brush it off, explain it away, or use whatever excuse we can in order to not face that challenge.
Sin is an act of our will against the will of God. It is to turn away from what God wants and to do what we want.
When we embrace the Mirage and refuse to accept the challenge that comes to us deeper in the desert, we are turning our will against the will of God. The Mirage will lead us no where, with the distinct possibility of us dying in that same spot we stayed in for much our life after having embraced it.
The Mirage is closely tied to comfort. And, in the spiritual life, comfort is spiritual suicide.
A practical example of one who was placed into the desert, and faced his own Mirage challenges, was St. Thomas More. His good friend, King Henry VIII demanded that he essentially renounce his faith and swear his allegiance to the king and the Church of England. St. Thomas More's struggles to maintain his position based on his faith were great. His staying firm was met with his eventual imprisonment and then execution when he patently refused to sign Henry VIII's Oath of Supremecy.
He could have accepted to sign that Oath. He could have worked with King Henry and his machinations to bring about an heir for his throne. He could have embraced the Mirage. But he did not and thus offered the supreme sacrifice of his life for Jesus Christ and His Church.
The Mirage begs of us these questions: Are we willing to go the distance, no matter what the cost? Are we willing to venture deeper into the desert, stepping beyond the Mirage, and the many more that will appear, to accept the aridity given to us by the Father? Are we willing to allow ourselves to have our complacency challenged? Are we willing to allow for the possibility that our preconceived notions may be wrong?
Prayer: Loving Father, You have placed us in the desert of Lent to challenge us to discover the depths of Your Love that can be found there. Help us to discover how to move our will into synch with Yours. Help us to offer up our pain and suffering while in the desert to You. Help us to discover the true gifts that we can find in the desert. Father, instill in us a deep sense of gratitude for the many gifts You have given us.
Thank You Father for the desert beauty. Thank You Father for sending Your Angels to support us and sooth us. I love You!