The crowded bus, the long queue, the railway platform, the traffic jam, the neighbours’ television sets, the heavy-footed people on the floor above you, the person who still keeps getting the wrong number on your phone. These are the real conditions of the desert. Do not allow yourself to be irritated. Do not try to escape. Do not postpone your prayer. Kneel down. Enter that disturbed solitude. Let your silence be spoilt by those sounds. It is the beginning of your desert.
My wilderness is my fear of my aloneness, my knowledge that the image people have of me is not the real me and my anxiety that when the moments of real testing come along I may be found wanting. This sense of being isolated and un-equipped, as Harry Williams explained, is a natural part of human experience and I need to face it.
What helps me is the love and support of those around me, and their critical friendship. This is partly why I belong to the Church community, because we need other pilgrims walking beside us on our journeys of faith. But it’s also a reminder that our human loves are a reflection of the divine love, that even when we feel most alone we can hold on to the fact that God is there. And the best way of finding that divine love is to lose yourself in other people.
Last week I arranged to meet someone who is facing a personal crisis. I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting and before we met I wondered what I was doing. But our conversation transformed my feelings, and I left feeling glad that we had talked. There are moments when we forget ourselves in loving others, and they make us feel truly alive. We meet God in the wilderness of our self-doubt and discover a glimpse of his glory.
David Meara, Archdeacon of London