Prayer was a continuous way of life in the desert. It was intentionally cultivated until it became second nature. Prayer involved the hard work of learning a new language – the language of heaven. For the ascetic, prayer was not merely the speaking of words. It was the yearning for God, reaching out in hopeful openness to being touched by God. Prayer was for the Holy Spirit breathing through the inner spirit of the ascetic and returning to God with yearnings of intimacy. (Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers; Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women [Paulist Press, 2001], 27)
I do not know where you are at today, nor do I know what your journey this last year had been like. For me, it has been a year of getting to know myself, of sitting in my “cell” and facing myself. And it has also been a year of intentionality, of yearning, of longing for God to breathe afresh and anew in my life – and He did not disappoint.
It has been a year of discovering that I am ridiculously in charge of my own life and that I alone bear the responsibility for its stewardship. It has been a year where I came to grips with the fact that there will always be circumstances that are out of my control and which have the power to shape me, if I chose. It has been a year where I embraced the truth that I have choices. Moment by moment, day by day, month by month, I can choose how I will spend the gift of time and how I will react to the things going on around me.
The desert fathers and mothers, whose writings I have been reading since last summer, taught me that their intentional choices influenced their personal growth and their relationship with God. Prayer was “intentionally cultivated,” solitude was “intentionally cultivated,” yearning for God was “intentionally cultivated.” How they chose to live was intentional.
I think too often we give away our power and numb our senses which leaves us crippled and confused about who we are, what we are feeling, and what our soul yearns for. In some cases, we have allowed technology to become our master, telling us when to drink water, how many steps to take, what our heart rate it, and we wear our fitness devices as some sort of reminder that we want to be aware. But somehow in that wanting, we have stopped creating spaces for silence and solitude. We have stopped taking the time to be present to God and present to ourselves. And perhaps for some of us, if we are really honest, we have become expert runners who run from ourself and try to run from God.
So today, if that’s you and you long for something different as I did last summer and still do, join me by reaching out your hands towards God and saying: “God, I yearn for you and you alone. I take back the power of choice to steward my own life, and I commit to intentionally cultivating the behaviours and thoughts that allow me to be present in life.”
A special note of thanks: Dear David, a soon-to-be-new-brother-in-Christ, thank you for courageously picking up your phone today and reaching out to a stranger (you happened to get me) to ask about how one becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ – you confirmed for me that this blog post matters. I hope you’ll call again and am praying for your wholehearted “yes” to Jesus.