Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lost in the Desert

In our spiritual lives we are often seeking,
We are searching to get -  someplace
To a place that is richer, more meaningful, than what we have now
To find a connection with God that is somehow deeper, more powerful.

And that is why I like the book of Exodus.  Because I think the Exodus, the journey of the people of God from captivity in Egypt, to that land “flowing with milk and honey”, the promised land, is our story.  It reflects, it mirrors, our spiritual journeys, our journeys through life, in so many ways.

Often the first movement in this journey starts with moment of great turmoil.

Indeed very often the biggest movements in our spiritual lives begin with trauma, with really tough moments.
A tragedy
A failure
An illness
Something happens that shakes our complacency, makes us uncomfortable
We stumble, we fall, we go down… and paradoxically this movement down becomes the key to the way up…

And here is the thing that strikes me.
These moments of falling do something very necessary
They shake our world

And what they do is they force us out of the place where we have come to rest,
And onto the trail, the road
Of if you want to think about it in terms of the Exodus, out of Egypt and into the desert

To put it another way, these moments force us to leave home.

These moments help us realize that what we have, where we are, who we are needs to change.
Why?  It depends I suppose.  Because it is a place that is too limited, or narrow, or rigid?  Because it is not a good place for us?  It could be for many reasons.  Bottom line? The place we are just isn’t where we need to be…

So these moments come that force us to realize that we have to let go of what is and let God move us into the mystery, the unknown….Into the desert.

And this is difficult.  Because many of us are pretty settled.
We are in a place, that spiritually, morally, feels pretty comfortable.  Homey. 
But the problem is that even though the place we are, is not great.  We are comfortable there. 
It has become our place, just as Egypt had become the place of the people of Israel.

And so we are willing to just sit in this place.  And make do.  And frankly, it takes a lot to get us to move from this place of comfort.  We are, all too often, quite stuck.

And therein lies the problem.  Why?  Because God is always calling us to a new thing
One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 43:19:  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Bottom line.  God wants us to go.  We are rooted.  And this doesn’t work when it comes to God’s ‘new thing.  This of these words from Christ.  "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."   Matt 9:16-17

To go with God sometime we have to let go
Pack up
Move out
Change skins
However you want to think about it.

And we not only have a lot of trouble getting going, we have a lot of trouble continuing to move away from the old place.  I keep thinking about the people of God in the desert

There they are, God has been amazing!!  So many incredible things have happened.
There have been the plagues, and then the Passover
The God took the people through the Red Sea.
Split the waters, and then closed them again

God has acted. 

But it took almost no time at all until the people wanted to do one thing
Go back to Eygpt.  ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt”
Does that sound right?  Is that what we would expect from people who have experienced the power of God the people of Israel have?  And yet there they are. 

It is hard for us isn’t it, to let go of our constructs
Our dreams
Our agendas… priorities
Our fears, our hatreds
Our ideas of morality

But this is what the journey demands.
Jesus calls this losing our life….

To get back to the Exodus story.  Are we willing to leave home, to get home?
Which brings me to the word,  ‘homesick’

In a sense, we are like the Israelites, caught between two homes.  The old place, Egypt, and the new place, the Promised Land.  We are homesick for both.

We are homesick, drawn toward what was (the old legal system of black and white.. The old morality)
We are homesick, drawn toward what can be, will be (where God wants to take us, the promised land)
There we are, wanting to go back, afraid to go forward
Caught in the middle
What are we to do?

So there we are, wanting to go back, afraid to go forward
A little lost and confused….

But we are not left alone in that state.

Enter God.  In the story, in the Exodus, God is represented by the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud.
When we are on the journey, when we have let go of what has been, the safe, the easy, the comfortable…

we are out on a limb
lost in the desert
and at that point all we have left is God…

And that is exactly the point.
We are in a place where we need God, and God is there.
In the Exodus story, we have the cloud, the fire
However we think of it, we have the presence of the sacred.

A presence, that pulls us along… that makes us “soul drawn”

We dare not try to find our own way, and make our way on our own power.  We can’t use external things (drugs , success)  We can’t stay surface, not even on the surface of holy things like the Bible.  We have to go deep.  We have to go into the mystery, into the wilderness….

And be a little lost.  And a little scared.  And very very dependent
And we will wander at times.  And at times feel like we are going in circles.  And at times go in circles.
But if we leave Egypt, and go with God…

If we are soul drawn….
We will see that new thing.  Find that new place.  Allow God’s amazing spirit to be poured into new wineskins…. And life will never be the same.

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