Trying to think about life and how God makes it full

The Wilderness, Part 4, Luke 4:1-13

As I think on all this stuff, I keep being reminded of someone’s words to me a few years ago: “You’re a very powerful person”. That surprised me, because I don’t consider myself as such. And I don’t try to be. But as I reflected on those words, perhaps I am – more than I think.

I know that I have a sense of ambition about me that wants to get on and do things, to see things change. I also know that I keep finding my way into influential circles, with some powerful people. So, do I like power? Am I manipulative? Am I destructive to others?

On the positive side, I do try to be pastoral with the people I work with and serve. I do take notice of their feelings, and take time to encourage them as they deal with the changes I may be bringing in their lives. I am keen to see change happen where its necessary, am willing to work hard for it, to argue for it, and to bring it about. I do try to treat with respect those with whom I don’t see eye to eye. Lord, please keep me clean and humble. At least I recognise my tendencies…

I know that I need to keep scripture and the example of Jesus always before me, and to ask the Holy Spirit to keep my ear open to him, and to be about to recognise the voice and tactics of the devil.

I’ve just been reading some of Thomas Merton’s ‘Thoughts in Solitude’. He was talking about the desert being created as a place of no use to mankind, and so it was a place supremely valuable in the eyes of God. That’s what the Desert Fathers thought. The desert offered mankind nothing, and so it could not be wasted or exploited. It was just to be itself.

It was a place, where to go, would be to become totally dependent on God.

But it was also a place of madness, and refuge of the devil.

And now the deserts of today are not immune to the encroachments of technological mankind who seeks to uncreate what God has blessed. The cities that spring up in them are full of corruption, vice, death, and madness – just like being in the house of the devil.

Merton says that the desert is no longer a place to go and fight the devil as Christ did; but the cities in the desert are the smiles of the devil, and the desert itself moves everywhere.

Interesting thought that: mankind used to go out to the desert, but now the desert comes to mankind. The despair of the desert fills mankind.

The Christian task, says Merton, is to live facing despair, but not to consent. To trample it down under the hope of the Cross. And in our fighting, we will find Christ at our side.

Solitude then, it seems to me, is like a place of desert where one can go, be dependent upon and sustained by, God. A place where some perspective can be sought and found.

When I go on Retreat, I go to my desert.

I also wonder whether there is some truth in the thought that the madness of the desert is also in the city where I live and work; hence, I am a continual wanderer in the desert.

I can see why Merton talks about the reality of despair, and why he says that the Christian must not succumb to despair. Christ has defeated despair, as he defeated the devil and his temptations in the desert.


February 22, 2007 - Posted by | contemplative, god, jesus, liminality, merton, religion


  1. Tony – You are a very powerful person. I also believe that you’re learning to use that power for positive good. You seek to bring change in others – you certainly get some to think about their own attidudes! Good on yer.

    Comment by MM | February 23, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for yer encouragement MM!

    Comment by revtc | February 24, 2007 | Reply

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