I live in the Shenandoah Valley and it is a virtual paradise.  It is a place filled with forests.  No matter where you look, the basic color is green. Green is a symbol for life and I live in a riot of life and biology. You would think that one would live with a profound sense of gratitude to God for living in such a place. Yet, as it often goes with human nature, we take it all for granted so that after a while, you don’t notice the green very much.

In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to go to desert places. Its fascinating topography and I enjoyed my time there, but when I returned home, I had a profound experience of green again.  This must have affected the nomads of the desert in the same way.  After spending months in the sands of the desert, coming into an oasis must have had a profound effect on them.  The desert is a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to live there. Yet, it is the desert that helped me once again to appreciate the color green.

We often wonder why God allows us to enter into desert places. Sometimes a job can be a real desert where you can find little there that can make life happy. Sometimes, home has become a real desert where there is little life and little love. For some, school is a desert place where there are few friends and the educational work seems fruitless. Is it possible for there to be desert places in church, or desert places in spiritual life?

In the latest DVD from the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, entitled “From the Little Mountain”, Fr. Seraphim makes the observation that when men first come to the monastery, God gives them many consolations. He does this to draw them to himself. Yet, inevitably, the consolations pass away, and there comes a time of dryness. Prayers are difficult; the mind wanders during worship and the reading of Scripture; it’s hard to stay awake. This is a time of real struggle. Yet, as difficult as it may be, this is a spiritually beneficial time and can bring great rewards.

We may not like the idea, but God wills that we enter into the desert from time to time.  Being in the desert serves several purposes. I have already alluded to one – that we do not take God for granted. Is this really possible? Fr. Seraphim noted that if we were to receive consolations from God all the time, we would stop growing spiritually.  We would simply grow accustomed to it and take it for granted. Being in a desert place makes us long for the color green, and when we finally enter the green again, it has a profound effect upon us.

There is another reason for being in the desert. There we have a chance to see the miracle of Christ feeding us from a few loaves and fish. The people followed Jesus to a desert place where there was little or nothing to eat or drink. The disciples wanted to send the people away to find food for themselves. The desert is a place of scarcity, so what could be done there? They didn’t realize that they stood in the presence of the One who lead Israel through the desert and fed them with manna. They didn’t know that he was the One who sent the ravens to feed Elijah. He who is the Manna from heaven fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish.

The desert is a place of struggle and great difficulty. I have never found it to be a pleasant experience. But with patience, you will see Christ break bread in your desert. You will know then you need never fear that there will be any place in you life where the provisions are so scarce that you will die. Even in the driest and fiercest of deserts, Christ will multiply whatever ever you have though it is small and seemingly insignificant.

Even forests can become deserts. Many of the Russian Saints fled to the forest wilderness of Russia and there amidst the trees made the Northern Thebaid their monastic desert. So, Fr. Seraphim is correct because it is in the desert that God purifies his people and makes prophets and saints out of sinners. And when you return from your desert place, the color green will simply overwhelm you.

One Response to “Green”

  1. nichole3 Says:

    As a cancer patient–at first I was elated that I got by so easy. My cancer was diagnosed at a very early stage and my surgery was a real success. But as time goes on–I tend to take it for granted and get annoyed my the grind of daily life. I have to make a conscious effort to be thankful again. We are getting ready for another desert as 90 people from my husband’s work place will be laid off this coming week. It will be interesting to find out whether we make it or don’t. But I feel the creative juices starting and so I know this desert experience will bear fruit. God bless you!

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