Posted February 23, 2015:
God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways

by a staff worker.

I find at times that the seed of my soul dies, and necessarily so. I am not saying this in a negative sense. It is so necessary that the seed fall into the soil and die. And when the seed is dead, it is unaware of the hope of life—that one day it will sprout and surface and blossom under the heat of the sun.

I feel strangely in the position of such a plant under the sun—interiorly, that is. And I find that I can see from this perspective the design of God across the face of the earth.

In such an interior dying, there is a bewildering and blind sort of deadness. I could not understand this death. But God is indeed merciful.

All things have their season, and I praise God for this season of pain and darkness, for not giving life to these dead bones, for the death of the seed, for the bewilderment, for the hopelessness and the desolation of spirit.

Like flames that light one another, like sparks and little flames, the flame of my heart has been joined to others and enkindled in pain.

I have come to see in this timing of the Lord—this time of seed-dying—his great compassion.

Had my heart been untouched in its peace and hope, had it been held in a sanctuary apart, protected and insulated against the experience of the rawness of life, I would have a hard time identifying, with my human understanding, the imprisoned gyrations and the desperation of other hearts.

I praise God, all of me, that he locked me in the solitariness of my experience.

God leads us to desert places, to arid, stark, lonely places where we are quite alone. And no matter how far we fall, we never escape the desert, the experience of being alone.

As Robert Frost wrote: "They cannot scare me with their empty spaces/ Between stars—on stars where no human race is./ I have it in me so much nearer home/ To scare myself with my own desert places."

When, after futile attempts to leave this desert place, we are stripped and emaciated and convinced of our own utter poverty and reliance on God, then he comes to us, he ministers to us as one stricken with disease and fever.

He comes gently and binds our wounds and calms our dreads. We are healed at his touch and want to live again.

At the root of my desire is God. I want nothing of grandeur or excitement or the happiness that the empty materialistic world has to offer. But we are all the same. This is not just my experience. God is what and whom we live for, hope for; he is our desire.

I have longed for death because I have longed for healing. And then, when we want nothing but the Lord and true life, then in truth he heals us. Who can know the ways of the Lord? Who can know why he takes so long in coming?

Thus I am waiting for God, waiting for his healing. The words of the psalmist are consoling here: Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my God (Ps 42:1).

This desert experience is seemingly the common experience of everyone down through the ages.

The Israelites were led through the desert; John the Baptist spent most of his life there. Christ himself probably often went there in addition to his long fast of forty days.

Were it not for the desert we would merely skim the surface of life. But when we are stripped and hungry, alone, afflicted, we learn in our very flesh and blood who we are in the deepest sense: we are nothing, yet God has been pleased to take up his dwelling in us.

He has intertwined our lives more than we could dare hope or dream. Who can comprehend this love? Who can live in its constant shadow?

The experience of the desert is a unifying one. In the desert, being stripped of self, one learns to love.

When I enter the core of myself, I see our oneness. As the prison of my own separateness is broken down in the desert, the walls between me and all others fall at the same time. It is the mystery of the seed dying and springing to life.

"The desert becomes a garden," as the Fathers would say. Life comes from death; unity from isolation. Yes, who can understand the ways of the Lord?


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