Monday, February 27, 2012
Finding Your Spirit Song
We are told in the Gospels, that Jesus went out into the wilderness. Many believe that he actually went out in to the desert. When you think about a desert, the vast majority of people think of a dry, hot, dusty, lifeless area, that is certainly quiet and not a place that you want to go. Now, I personally have never been to a desert. I have family and friends though, who have. The most fascinating stories come from those who have actually lived in a desert area or who have been in a desert for an extended period of time. They tell me that the desert isn’t quite as lifeless as the rest of us perceive it to be. Life in the desert is subtle, but it is there, if you just take the time to stop and pay attention. A sudden rain will cause things to bloom, things that you didn’t even know were there, but were waiting, just under the surface, for the right time and the right circumstances. Sunrise and Sunset paint dramatic pictures across the landscape-color, shadow, shape, things that you would not normally see or expect to see in such a lifeless place. But most fascinating to me are the friends who tell me that the desert sings. The desert is not this vast silent space. If one listens closely you can hear the song of the desert when the breeze blows and the sands shift. The desert sings and all because a breeze blows through. That doesn’t sound lifeless to me!
As a girl who grew up in the country, I can understand this subtle singing. I have heard the singing in a different way though. I grew up hearing the sound of pines whispering or maple leaves rustling. I have heard the difference between a babbling brook, a lapping lake and the ocean roar. I have heard it at the top of a granite mountain where alpine flora and fauna cling tenaciously in the nooks and crannies and sway in a gentle breeze. Each, is part of the wilderness, and it is vast, and wide, and open enough that you can hear the song of even a gentle breeze.
Now, you can look at time in the wilderness as a matter of sacrifice-giving up the comforts of the known and familiar, “doing without” being the soul purpose of going out into the wilderness. Or, you can broaden your perspective and look at this as an opportunity where the spirit can blow a fresh breeze into those spiritual spaces. For me, personally, the second option adds so much more meaning to the time of Lent!
The thing that got me to seriously consider the second option was a meditation that Rev. Leslie Weatherhead wrote in his book “A Private House of Prayer”. In it, he describes how he imagines the story from John 3, verses 1-8. He imagines Nicodemus eating dinner with Jesus and that it was traditional to have the shutters closed so others could not overlook them while they were eating. He describes how stifling it is in the room until Jesus walks over to the shutters and flings them open to let in the evening breeze. He sees Jesus using this experience to describe the New Birth-when the fresh air wafts gently in and drives out the stale, stifled atmosphere that prevailed before. Fresh air replaces dead air. The breeze blows, and it is clean and new!
My great-grandmother understood this well! Apparently she would open the windows of the house, even in the dead of winter, for five to ten minutes, every day, in order to let fresh air in to the house. She said it made it easier to heat the house and keep it warm, once you did that! For those of you who have never experienced a Vermont winter, let me assure you, it can get mighty cold! 30 below zero is not an uncommon temperature at certain times during the winter, so to commit to this routine every day throughout the winter was quite a feat, especially in the days when the house was heated by a wood stove only! Warm stuffy air was sacrificed long enough to let the fresh air in!
Now imagine that your soul is shut up tight, like a house in winter. Imagine that your life is warm and cozy because you have everything shut tightly. The problem though, is that things can become stifling. The air can become stale. You forget the sound of the song. You forget what it feels like to have a fresh breeze blowing. So you make the conscious choice to sacrifice and go out in to the spiritual wilderness. You open up the doors and windows of your life, and your soul, so the breeze can waft its way through. It may mean that you confront some things that you have kept tightly sealed or hidden. It can mean being temporarily uncomfortable. That’s what Jesus did out there in the desert. He left the known and the comfortable and traveled out to a place where the breeze could blow. In doing so, the song of the Spirit came through and he was able to confront those things that needed to be confronted. Did it involve sacrifice? We know from the Gospel of Luke that it most certainly did involve sacrifice. But I would argue that it was so much more than that! In the bigger picture, it involved opening up to the breeze of the Spirit, blowing through the soul, providing a freshness that allowed him to confront the things that needed to be confronted, so he was able to go on and do the thing that he had been sent to do!
What would happen in your life if you made the spiritual journey out in to the desert? Are you willing to open up your life and your soul? Are you willing to be uncomfortable and to confront some things that may need to be confronted? It would involve sacrificing the safety and security of the known comfort zone and venturing out in to the unknown. The wilderness may seem lifeless at first, but when the gentle breeze blows, the air changes. If you listen closely, you can hear the Spirit song. Not everyone will be willing or ready to do this, but I want each of you to consider the possibility. Instead of just going through the motions of preparing for a High Holy Day, consider taking the risk of going deeper. Consider taking the risk of venturing out in to the desert. Consider the possibility of opening yourself up to seeing things that you did not expect. Consider going on the quest to hear your very own Spirit song from God!
Let the wind blow God, let the wind blow!