Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dry Places

a stunning yellow flower blooms on the cactus in the courtyard garden of the retreat house


Yesterday morning I walked into my courtyard garden and discovered that a beautiful yellow flower had sprung up from one of the cacti.

I find that flowers blooming from cacti are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The colors and shapes and even fragrances of cacti flowers are rich, bright and exotic.  I think maybe I am so amazed at these flowers because I just don't expect to see such delicate and elegant beauty springing out of bristly, thorny cacti planted in dry barren soil.

Once again I discover how much the desert has to teach me; and once again I realize why the desert is such a deeply spiritual place as my beautiful yellow cactus flower teaches me something about the "dry places" in our human condition. 

We all have dry places in life. Sometimes the dry places of life are more prevalent than others - sickness, a ruptured relationship, depression, addiction, financial difficulties, the loss of a loved one.

Often times people don't want to look at or think about their own dry places. We want to feel pleasure and the dry places in life are not all that comfortable. 

In my own life I know that, at times, I have hidden my own dry places from others. I have even hidden them from my self. And yet, as I look at the course of my life, I realize that sometimes the driest and least attractive parts of me have been the places where the greatest joy and beauty have flourished. 

My dry places have given me an opportunity to face and to name my own demons.  When I have recognized the dry places in life and, instead of hiding away,  have reached out to others for healing and forgiveness,  new life has always emerged and sprung forth from the bristly thorny skin of my ego.

One final reflection -  usually when people go through dry patches in life, God gets blamed.  When people suffer or are in pain, they think they have been abandoned by God or perhaps even punished for their bad deeds. I think the opposite is true.   I believe that God's beautiful reviving presence always abides just beneath the surface of the driest places in the human condition. 

A thick-skinned and not so pretty cactus is planted in the barren rocky desert ground. From it a beautiful yellow flower blooms. 

The desert is such a wonderful teacher.


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