The Desert: Knowing the Landscape of your Mind
On Thursday night this past week, I was up at Camp Weed in Live Oak Florida for a clergy conference. I have almost no cell phone service there so I went up a hill in the dark at night before bed to say goodnight to my family. I spoke to Jake as I looked up at the stars and he told me the news.
“Mom,” he said. “It may be the biggest scientific discovery in this century. They have proven that Einstein’s theory of relativity is true. There is such a thing as space/time. And there is such a thing as a black hole.” I looked up at the magnificent view of stars while my son told me this news. Now, I don’t have a scientific mind, but I do get that feeling sometimes when I am trying to grasp a concept in physics and I almost feel as if my mind is expanding. We don’t know much about what is out there in space, but we just discovered a little bit more.
In Jesus’ time, wandering into the desert alone was the equivalent of going into outer space today. There was the clear need for water, the possibility of starvation, animals, weather. It was a dangerous place and there was nowhere else where you would be more alone. It was outer space.
In the movie Martian, Mark Whatley, an astronaut and botanist finds himself stranded on Mars. His crew leaves him after a storm thinking that he is dead. He literally finds that he is the only person on the entire planet. Talk about being alone.
I might have gone crazy. Just laid down and died. Said my prayers and lost it. But he didn’t. Mark Whatley did not give into despair. His way of staying sane was to begin to do the math. He tackled one problem after another. I could not go there, he would later explain. I could not give in to despair, so I just solved one problem at a time until I got to go home. He was even able to film himself and joke and laugh in the face of death. He chose to respond with hope.
What would do you if you were stranded on Mars? Do you know the landscape of your own mind? Would you know how to keep yourself alive? How to stay sane?
This year, our theme is courageous relationships and one of the most courageous relationships that we all must have is with ourselves.
Do you really know the landscape of your own mind?
Most of us know our cholesterol, our weight, our age. We know our allergies and most of the physical aspects of our bodies, both the good and the not so good. But very few of us really know our own minds.
Take a look at the desert plants that the Sanctuary Guild has so beautifully prepared for us. Jesus went into the desert so that he could model for us what it means to get to know the landscape of our minds. He went to the desert not to prove anything but to show us what we need to do as humans. Before he did any ministry, he went off alone and he heard his temptations. He identified them. He knew them. He said NO to them. And then, and only then, did he get to go home.
Our minds look like these desert scenes. They have beauty but they also have cacti. Thoughts with stickers, thoughts that drain us or make us frightened. You landscape was created by your past and by your genes. It is what it is. You have good thoughts and you have destructive thoughts. Get to know your own mind so that you can move beyond it and not become its prisoner.
It is amazing how many people make the same mistakes over and over and over again because they live on top of a cactus, so they think that everyone in the earth is mean. Or they suffer from perpetual fear of money and cant reject that impulse to hoard or blame. Who knows what your temptations look like, only you can find out. But you must get to know them because you cant say no to them until you hear them out, just like Jesus did. You must first listen to your mind before you can chose to be the person you want to be.
It takes courage to get to know your landscape. Jesus had to be silent and we are terrified of silence. Jesus had to be alone and we hate being alone for long periods of time. Jesus heard the devil, all that is opposed to God and it came to him and asked him questions to lead him astray. If Jesus was tempted by evil, do you think it may be possible that you are tempted too? And I am not just talking about adultery and drunkenness and all that rather in your face stuff, what about despair (the devil suggests Jesus throw himself off a cliff), or self-centeredness and giving up (just break your fast and feed yourself) or power (don’t we all want to be heard? Don’t we all want to be taken seriously and admired and adored?)
Jesus did not run away from the devil, from temptation. He let temptation speak.
Jesus listened to it. He knew what it was. He rejected it….
You and I too…We must listen to it. Know what it is. And Reject it.
Listen. Recognize. Reject.
You are human. To be human is to face temptation. Even Jesus did. To be human is to have a complex landscape of the mind, a fallen mind. It is to taste despair, misery, revenge. But to be human is also to have the power to say NO. But you cannot say no to what you do not recognize and you cannot say no to what you do not hear.
Outer space is a crazy place. So is your own mind. But it is the place of life, the birth of who you are. It is the place where we go to understand ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to know yourself.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead