For almost three years I have been "wandering in the wilderness." A spirituality of the desert has long been an intermittent theme in my adult life and I have been deeply informed by Henri Nouwen's writing on the desert fathers and mothers as well as Walter Brueggemann's works on wilderness, exile and renewal. After being called out of pastoral ministry in the local church as clearly as I was once called into it - and having this confirmed by experience - there were almost three years of desert uncertainty where I hoped that I was attuned to the voice of the sacred, but didn't know for sure. Like Moses after the Exodus, I looked for signs of God's presence amidst the wilderness terrain. In leaving pastoral ministry, I thought I was finished with the Church. Not that I would forsake the way of Jesus, but like St. Lou Reed once said about an oil addicted USA: "Stick a fork in it, its done!" That was too hasty. That was hurt feelings talking when a longer obedience knew better.
On the last night of our Montreal sabbatical, we went to Taize worship - and I was energized. Di said, "Apparently God isn't finished with you yet." True enough. My growing connection with the L'Arche Ottawa community confirmed this truth and continues to deepen. After three years, however, I have wanted more clarity about where the wilderness might be leading me. And during our recent trip to Quebec's Eastern Townships for our anniversary, I got another clue. Let's call it a quiet epiphany inviting us to let this year be one of "beholding."
I knew the call had to be about a ripening trust. And a spirituality of tenderness. But discernment was not the right word nor was waiting or sorting. After our afternoon nap, my brilliant life-mate said, "What about "beholding." She was right. "Behold, I make all things new" says both Isaiah and the book of Revelation. As I did some word study in Hebrew and Greek I found that "behold" fits in spades. It is exactly what my heart senses as we leave the desert for a new way of being. This is a time to let go of old ways and pay attention to what God is revealing in quiet ways all around me. This is not a time to rush or create, but to savor, watch and nurture: Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43: 19)