05/09/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Desert

When we go into the desert in our own time, we need not go to a particular geographical location. The desert is all around us. We find the desert in the city and in the country. We find it in our work and in our relaxation. We find it among friends and among strangers. We find it within and outside ourselves.

We need to go into the desert in order to be tested, to discover again our essential humanity. We need to be free from the illusion which denies that we are the children of God. And so we suffer the temptations of Jesus: if you are really the son of God, if you are really the daughter of God, you should be able to feed all the hungry of the world. You can turn every one of these stones into loaves of bread. You should be able to take on worldly dominions. You should be able to attract all the nations to yourself. One gigantic crusade will do it, winning you the certainty of God's favor.

The temptations haven't changed. They are singular in intent and purpose: to confuse us as to our identity, to split and divide our consciousness, to bring us into the confusion of self doubt. That's where the fantasy begins, the cover-up, the illusion, the pretense. This is the purpose of temptation: to break us down.

From the experience of these temptations in the desert we emerge as Jesus did, free from the tempter - for a while. The tempter waits for other opportunities. In the time between temptations it is important for us to remember that we have been given of the Tree of Life. And from that Tree of Life we discover and become more and more confirmed in our discovery, namely, that our creature-hood is an ambiguous state.

Not all is clear. Very little is. Not all is evident. Not all finds proportionality and harmony. In truth, ultimate integrity would seem to consist in the balance of polarities and opposites, contradictions even.

The desert, whether geographical or as the innerscape of the soul, is the playing field and open wilderness where conflict and resolution are waged in the contention of spiritual forces. As such, the desert is where we are tested - not arbitrarily, but for the sake of the soul's malleability and agility in living more authentically, more conscientiously.