Friday, October 11, 2013

The Beautiful Struggle

The Desert
-vast, wild, scary, awesome, breathtakingly beautiful-

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with a group of folks and talk about the new book I just published ("A Way in the Wilderness: Reflections of a Desert Pilgrim"). In the book I tell lots of my own life stories - how I have wrestled with the questions of faith, stories of where I have found life's joys, disappointments and sorrows.  

When I met with these people yesterday, I sort of thought I would be telling them some of the stories I wrote about in my book, but as it turned out, in our time together everyone in the group began to share their own life stories and instead of just talking about a book, our time together turned into a tender and powerful experience of friendship and companionship. I knew almost no one in that group. They were all strangers to me, but as we shared our stories, in a matter of moments we all became powerfully connected to one another - fellow pilgrims and intimate companions on the journey of faith and the road of life.

The singer-songwriter, K.D. Laing once referred to the human condition as "the beautiful struggle we are in." Yesterday as I met with a group of strangers, the stories we shared together revealed that all of us are are indeed in a beautiful struggle. The shared stories of our common struggle quickly turned  strangers into friends.
We all had the same doubts. We all had experiences of God's presence as well as experiences of God's absence. We all had known our better angels and we had also wrestled with our demons on the way.  At various times along the path of life, we all had moments when we felt strong and vibrant as well as  those times when we were weak and sick. 

The people in the group yesterday were "desert folks"- some have lived in the desert for most of their lives. So, before our time together ended, it was no surprise that we wound up talking about (and identifying with) one of the most well-known desert stories in the Bible -the story of the "Exodus" found in the Hebrew scriptures. It is one one of the most powerful metaphors about the "beautiful struggle" you are ever likely to find anywhere.

In that "exodus-desert" story, the Hebrew people have been freed from slavery and they find themselves wandering in a vast, scary, uncharted wilderness on their way to the "Promised Land". There are no maps or roads. They don't know where to go or how long it will take to arrive at their destination. 

There in the midst of the wilderness, having heard the voice of God, Moses tells the people what they need to do to make their way to the Promised Land. He assures them that God will abide among them and will be with them along the way, so they need not be afraid.  Moses also tells these desert pilgrims that they will never find their way walking alone. They are told to always walk together and help each other out.  If anyone wanders off alone, they will surely get lost. The people are also told to take special care of those who may be having a harder time on the journey - the stronger are to help the weaker on the way.  

The desert story of the exodus is not just a story about Israel, it is a story about "us" and our common, shared human condition. It is a story about the beautiful struggle we are in - a story about how to find the way through it all. 

When I said goodbye to my fellow desert pilgrims yesterday, I realized I may never see some of these people ever again. But it doesn't matter. I know we are always connected - bonded together in that beautiful struggle and that bond can never be broken even if we never meet again.  

read the stories in my new book:

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