In the fourth century, a group of Christian hermits fled to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Persia in a quest for clarity, to know their true selves, and to achieve purity of heart. These Desert Fathers removed themselves from the world in order to seek a way to God unmapped by others before them. They ditched the cities and all their possession to live a life of detachment and solitude to discover their own inner reality as centered in Christ.
In other words, they leapt into the void in order to see and hear more clearly.
In her book Spiritual Growth, Sanaya Roman compares the void to a bird aspiring to fly in a higher jet stream. As she leaves the familiar path, she experiences turbulence and little air flow – as conditions between the two paths are more unstable. If the bird perseveres through the chop and uncertainty, she is eventually able to stabilize and fly easily in the higher flow.
The last few months I have been spending a lot of time in the void or the desert.
After my pilgrimage across Spain and hospitalization, I tried to re-assemble my former life. However, some of the pieces no longer fit. The more I forced it, the more evident it became that I had evolved into a different person and needed to honor that. I realized that, although I will always be writer, I was much happier and fulfilled when I was around people – especially when I can use my gifts toward service while collaborating directly with a team.
Lessons From the Old and the Young
So I experimented.
I volunteered at an assisted-living center, working with seniors with Alzheimer’s and other health issues. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed that work and how much I learned from the residents. I also tutored elementary-school Hispanic children in reading and math and looked forward to being around their contagious energy.
The old and the young taught me many lessons, the most important being how to be fully present and live in the moment. They modeled for me how to let go of expectations and striving and simply be okay with what is.
Returning to Ministry
As a young girl I aspired to be a missionary. A religious studies major, I spent my early 20s in different kinds of ministry – serving at-risk communities and homeless shelters. I even worked alongside Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, India when I was in graduate school getting my theology degree.
As I grow older, I’ve been craving the personal connection with people and feel called to pursue a ministry that affords that experience. So that’s what I’m starting to do. I’m incorporating an earlier part of myself that needs to be nurtured and expressed.
There will always be room for writing, of course. I will write when the spirit inspires. However, I wanted to share an update with you.
The void or the desert feels like a useless place. However, if you can afford to stop for a period of time – if you can just sit in uncomfortable silence and unknowing – it can be life-changing. You might discover forgotten parts of yourself that inspire joy. Or you could access some piece of wisdom that might lead to wholeness and healing.