The soft occasions do not bring out the deepest of a person. Only as we sink roots into the hard, rocky soil of the wilderness, only as we wait patiently for the bush to burn, only as we withdraw for our own forty days and forty nights of waiting, do we find the Source. The trouble, it seems, is that God is not in a hurry, and we are.
One of the great virtues learned in the wilderness is patience. In the desert you forget calendars. You leave your watch behind, for it is useless. You go to bed at sunset and rise at dawn. Meals are scheduled by body needs, not to satisfy clocks and appointments. In the desert, one learns to wait.
How programmed we are to produce! Goal-oriented, production-conscious, we have been trained to close each day with a question: How much did I produce today? Did I meet my quota? Everything is geared to what the production control people call ‘the bottom line’ – which is preceded invariably by a dollar sign. It is a mentality developed by a materialistic society that places the prime emphasis on doing rather than being.
But in the wilderness, you learn patience. Here you have time – lots of it. There is time to grow still. Time to pull aside and look at a bush burn. Time to sit with friends and talk. Time to pray. Time to rest. Time to walk long distances without the anxiety of having to be back to meet a schedule. In the desert you rediscover the precious commodity of time. As faith has been boxed in by religious rites, so has time been relegated by our hurry-up society into a framework of calendars and clocks. Only in the wilderness do you discover how precious it is to have enough time to do what you want.
God may be found in the wilderness. But the entire scale of time and place in the wilderness is ‘utterly other,’ apart from time and space as we know it in our rapid transit society.
In my times in the desert I have become aware of its agelessness and vastness. Each time I have entered the Sinai I have purposefully taken off my watch and left my appointment calendar behind. Here it makes no difference how old I am, what the date is or whether it is 9.00 am or noon. I have learned to get up with the dawn and crawl into my sleeping bag when the sun sets.
From Day 25 of The Promise of Power – life messages of great Christians, compiled by Judith Couchman, published by Vine 1998