Saturday, March 29, 2014


It was the right place and the right time but the disciple Thomas wasn't there. The other disciples were celebrating the exhilarating presence of the risen Jesus who suddenly appeared at their gathering. Thomas was the only one missing. We aren't told why he was absent. Perhaps he was isolating himself, hiding somewhere in despair and doubt. His hopes had run dry. As a follower of Christ, he was disillusioned by the tragic outcome of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Why show up at all?

At times we may feel as if we too aren't there when God is revealing Himself to others. Most of us go through spiritual dry spells when we feel little emotion, sense a distance from God, trudge along without visions or thrilling brushes of angel wings which other people seem to experience. In our spiritual lives we sometimes feel the monotony of arid sameness and nothing but sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. Our devotion to God tends to slack off and our appetite for the sacraments and worship and the company of God's people is dulled. To maintain our faith and witness wearies us and begins to feel like a heavy burden.

Are such dry times in our spiritual lives abnormal? Should we expect to be constantly and effervescently reveling in consolations and emotional highs? Could it be that God is actually allowing us to go through arid times in order to draw us closer? That seems like a paradox. But there are such times as “dark nights of the soul.”

When I see the Lord beckoning to me from the Dry-Land of the Desert, I confess that I don't run toward that experience with great delight. I really don't want to follow. I shake my head and decline His invitation. I much prefer to lie down in green pastures and have spiritual picnics beside the cool, still waters. I want to keep my soul revved up with His constant nearness and feelings of pleasure. I want oasis living all the time! I favor the burning-heart emotion of leaning close to Jesus' breast.

But He persists to draw me, extending His nail-scarred hand toward me. “You are missing something precious. I have deep things to teach you while we walk together in the Dry-Land as well as on the mountain top. Both an ebb and flow in life are in My plan for you.”

How should I respond when I go through such dry times, when I feel like I'm “not there” while others are experiencing the exhilaration of the nearness of God. A fourteenth century writer, Blessed Angela of Foligno, offered sound spiritual counsel.

“...Do not pray less or keep vigils less often, or do any other good works any less when divine grace is withdrawn from you than when it is in your possession. It is a good thing and very acceptable to God if you [keep faithfully doing these things] even when the fervor of divine grace seems absent...[Be just as faithful] when that grace or warmth seems to be lacking or has been withdrawn from you—either because of some deficit in you or, which is most often, to amplify and increase God's grace in you.
[Continue to] act without grace [consolations] just as you do when you have grace. Even if you suffer tribulations or temptations, which serve to chastise and purify every son whom the Father receives, and grace is taken from you, be persistent in [devotion and good works.]”

Bottom line: God wants me to be just as faithful and steadfast when the emotional well of my spiritual life seems dry as in the times when my heart burns within me on life's way. In the fulness of time the apostle Thomas "was there" and received His personalized, hands-on, unique consolation compelling him to make his celebrated, joyful declaration of faith, “My Lord and my God!” And Thomas “was there” when the Holy Spirit came upon all who were assembled at Pentecost! 


In God's appointed time, we too will experience the dynamic flow of power and love after the ebb, if we are willing to walk in desert times with Him when He calls us there. We just need to be sure that “we are there” in the right place at the right time and meanwhile, faithfully keep on-keeping on until Jesus shows up for us.


Lord, I know I should be willing
to walk in The Dry-Land
if it's with You—
but I'm not eager.

Actually, I'm disinclined and reluctant
because I sweat when it's hot
it's not comfortable in the desert
my tender feet burn and split
my throat is parched
I swallow sand and grit
hot wind bites my fevered face.

But I know You are trusting me
to carry Your Living Water
the only cup of refreshing
that can quench the thirst
of other travelers
who also must journey through
the Dry-Land

Please give me Your grace
not to draw back
but to keep my eyes on Your face
and not be slack
in my commitment
in my devotion to You.

If I myself do not experience
the blazing heat
an aching heart
pressure beyond measure
temptations and trial
nor find You sufficient
for every mile
of my own Dry-Land
I would not care to share
Your Water with another.

Accept my weak willingness
to walk in arid deserts
as well as verdant valleys
that I might become
Your watered garden
Your spring of refreshing
to meet the needs of those
whose stumbling, blistered feet
You bid me wash (as You did)
while all of Your children
journey together with You
through life's Dry-Land

Isaiah 58:11
"And the Lord will...satisfy your desire in scorched
places...and you will be like a watered garden and
like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

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