“The significance of desert and mountain is not who resides here, but what we ourselves have left behind in coming.” David Douglas
“One has to consider the surly, discourteous piety of the desert fathers and mothers. They were ‘resident aliens’ in a world that fostered gentility and comfort. They simply did not fit. As Bruce Berger observes, ‘the desert notoriously harbors the loner, the misfit, the only child.’ It attracts a people who are downwardly mobile, often cantankerous, ill at ease in polite society. Shun the city and all of it niceties, growled Jerome from his desert lair. His Christianity required the hard solace of open spaces. …The discipline of the desert was gradually acquired in the methodical weaving of palm fronds into mats and baskets, the practice of long exposure to desert loneliness, the reduction of everything in one’s life to a radical simplicity. Growth in the spiritual life came to be measured in microparameters, in how much could be give up, how much one could be emptied. …To use the provocative language of Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, the desert Christians understood the church as an alien community no longer caught up in the anxious, self-interested preservation of the world-as-it-is. Their practice of indifference to the dominant social values of their age, exercised from the desert’s edge, stood in stark contract to the accommodating spirit of post-Constantinian, urban Christianity. …The desert as metaphor is that uncharted terrain beyond the edges of the seemingly secure and structured world in which we take such confidence, a world of affluence and order we cannot image ever ending. …[People like these desert fathers and mothers] are what the church has been summoned to be, a community of broken people, painfully honest, undomesticated, rid of the pretense and suffocating niceness to which ‘religion’ is so often prone.” Belden Lane
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers
to abstain from fleshly lusts
which wage war against the soul.”
1 Peter 2:11
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Would anyone say of you that you are apathetic (indifferent) to many of your world’s values?
- How dependent are you upon the “affluence and order” of our world for your sense of security?
- These desert Christians viewed themselves as “aliens and strangers.” Would those words aptly describe you? …your faith community?
- What are these desert Christians saying that you need to hear?
Abba, show me what to leave behind.
For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Desert and Mountain Spirituality by Belden Lane
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill
Interesting thoughts! Desert forefathers contracting the Christian life. Sometimes Christianity does seem like you are in a alien environment, not a popular social society by any means. I don’t think true Christianity tries to have the appearance of an alien society but people are not attracted to desert surroundings. Hard core beliefs and practices are not easy and not what the human heart desires. People like easy lifestyles, ones that bring instantaneous gratification, not patiently awaited longstanding results that bring internal joy. Very few want to belief in something they can’t see, feel and touch. Believing is relying on the unseen and the unknown. That is the meaning of the word. Reliance is like a desert there is nothing there but faith. No one to rescue you except God and God along.