The Desert Experience

by Clark Roush, Ph.D.

My recent thoughts have repeatedly returned to “the desert experience,” so I thought I would share my thoughts concerning it. The most significant desert experience I can think of is both literal and metaphorical – it is the one Jesus was subjected to at the beginning of his ministry. It was undoubtedly a time of intense focus on the task that lie ahead, and it was apparently a necessary part of the preparation for his future journey. I believe it was the time in Jesus’ life where he settled every question he might have had about the necessity of the Cross. His resolve coming out of the desert was absolute. The devil tempted him, and when Jesus continually responded with scripture, the end of the temptation incident mentions that Satan “left him for a more opportune season.” Satan threw three of his best jabs at Jesus, but failed to land any of them, because Jesus was able to block them. His desert experience had left him with the determination to do things the Father’s way. This intent was acute enough to supercede other human needs caused by his time  away from the real world.

Throughout the Bible and throughout history, we are given the accounts of numerous other “desert experiences.” Some of these, as Jesus’ was, are literal – time spent in the desert. Others are metaphorical – time spent away from the hustle and bustle of the normal routine in order to try to achieve a focus of thought and clarity of purpose presently lacking. If some of the greatest minds and spirits the world has known have found it necessary to “experience the desert,” why should we be reticent to do so? I believe that at times, our busyness is attempt to keep from having to go through the cleansing process brought about by the desert. I believe the purging and purification that happens in the desert can be achieved nowhere else, hence, it is imperative that we allow ourselves to endure that part of our journey.

I believe one of the prime directives of the desert is returning  the most salient Voice in our lives to its intended preeminance. Culture seems to have a way of enticing our hearts and minds. Its magnetic attraction tugs on us, and at times, attaches part of itself to us. Sometimes we’re aware of this – sometimes we are not. We are quite accustomed to its ever-present siren song, and it’s easier than I wish for things to affix themselves to my mind, my heart, or my spirit. Things I really didn’t intend to be there! Things that sometimes are contrary to what it is I said I wanted to be about. When the world’s chaff begins to work its way into my physical, emotional, mental, professional, or spiritual self – it is time to head for the desert!

When I hear ONLY the Voice of my creator, it is amazing how quickly the residue is washed away! It’s not always the easiest thing to hear only His voice – that is why it is important to find a place where one can focus on that. The restoration and redemption that can come only from Him, allows a new start, a fresh beginning, a clear focus, and a renewed energy. Have you ever noticed that we feel most like “ourselves,” when we allign that with His will and way? You are the only one that knows if you need a desert experience – it would be better for you to take one than for God to force one upon you!