Earlier this week I received this email (below)… and when I saw the subject line I thought to myself “Nope… you probably don’t want to read that. You know that desert you feel stuck in?! This topic might hit a little close to home right now… you know?! Are you sure you want to read that email?!”
Subject Line: Stay in the Desert
Well, I got brave this morning. And then I sat there and… what did I do?! I cried. Of course I did… and the message here is AMAZING. So amazing that I have to share it with others.
If it speaks to you … great.
If you need to avoid the topic for a few days… great.
If you cry… that’s ok too.
Some background: Last year I read Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and it rocked my world. And more recently I picked up his new book “Emotionally Healthy Leader” (not finished with it yet) but I have also gone through their Emotionally Healthy Leader conference…. etc. Needless to say, I’m a big fan. So, here I go toting the wisdom of the EHS team by sharing this weeks’ email blast. (Go to their website and sign up for their weekly emails. You can thank me later.)
Just put your big girls’ pants on… and go read it. You can do it. You’re brave. I believe in you. And it’s ok if you cry. Join the club…
Stay in the Desert
The following is a story based on the life of Abba Anthony from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers that I have pondered for years:
Abba Anthony received a letter from Emperor Constantine to visit him in Constantinople. He wondered if he should go and asked Abba Paul who said, “If you go, you will be called Anthony, but if you stay here (in the desert alone), you will be called Abba Anthony.”
What makes this story so important is that it speaks to the inner anchor of a life rooted in the love of God. We assume our overactive spirituality is normal. It is not. In fact, our tendency to seize more and more opportunities for God has destroyed many a good leader.
Innumerable demands and distractions confront every one of us. Doors of new opportunities swing open before us – to speak, to strategize for further expansion, to intervene in ministry problems, etc.
Two key insights have served me over the years to resist the pull to “travel to Constantinople” too often.
First, I remind myself over and over to the wisdom of W.H. Auden, poet and follower of Christ:
“To achieve anything today, an artist has to develop a conscious strictness in respect of time which in former ages might have seemed neurotic and selfish, for he must never forget that he is living in a state of siege.”
Secondly, I pay attention to God coming to me through consolations (those feelings that connect me more deeply with Him, filling me with life and energy) and desolations (those feelings that disconnect me from myself and Jesus). I watch carefully for when my doing for God goes beyond my being with Him, when my inner life with Jesus shrinks.
Why? I know that if I respond to God’s voice to remain “in the desert” with Him, possibly – over a period of many years – it might result in my maturing into a person who can serve our generation like Abba Anthony did in his day.
May God help each of us.