Two types of desert help us in this world. There is the natural desert, and then the spiritual one. When we think of a desert, our imagination leads us to a dry place of hardship, and that’s an accurate description. Have you ever stood in an actual desert? Me neither, yet the desert is really just a place of quiet and calm. All of us somewhere in the world have some wilderness at our fingertips, a place where we can leave the multitude at our heels.
Where I live in Ireland, I’m surrounded by wilderness and mountains of equal hardship, just a different extreme climate. By climbing these mountains, we begin to see ourselves. In the world, we don’t really see ourselves, because our spirits are deafened by the noise of our desires/sins. There also exists that culture who wants to fan the flame of those desires.
Therefore it’s necessary that we physically remove ourselves from the crowd. In this self-discovery, only then can we really communicate effectively with God. We can pray and talk with God in whatever state we are in, but we do so in a sort of ignorance. If we want to break free from the ignorance, we have to begin to study ourselves, and the sinful vices within that prevent us from seeing the Lord with the eyes of our soul.
Being isolated from the world even for five minutes helps us to appreciate the real beauty in the world, and how materialism doesn’t hold a match to it.
Finally, I’d like to speak briefly about the other desert. The desert of illness and sickness is an arid land like the physical aforementioned. Seeing its beauty is often difficult. However, when we fall ill with something as little as a head cold or flu, it helps us go inward. In our sickness, we get to be reminded of the fragility of life, and how we are not in control of our lives as we’d like to assume ourselves to be.
Many saints were formed in this way. Take, for example, St.Ignatius of Loyola. He was a soldier who got hit by a cannon in the leg. There he sits in the hospital, pondering life and ends up reading a book on the lives of the Saints. It is here when moments of suffering are often an occasion God turns into an excellent opportunity for us to change.
The real desert can make us realize how small we are and great God is. Likewise, the arid landscape of illness can make us contemplate how small or fragile we are and how enormous, and eternal God is. Humans have an extraordinary habit of living their lives in such a way that they’re going to live forever. Illnesses help humble us in this regard.
Do it. Take the opportunity as soon as you can to visit the quiet ocean, mountains, or desert in your area. Purposefully remove yourself from this world and drink from the fountain of solitude. It is here, and only here, can your thirst for change be truly quenched.
God bless ya.