November 18, 2021•449 words
Dear members of the Desert Prayers community,
Thank you for your participation in Desert Prayers. I hope that your prayer time has been fruitful, and that your relationship with God, neighbor, and self is continuing to deepen.
This week, anger has replaced pride has the most often reported "troubling thought" within the community. It is helpful to note that these thoughts commonly shift in frequency and type in our daily lives and prayers. When one particular thought occupies our minds it can be tempting to think that we "are" that thought, e.g., "I'm an angry person," or "I'm a sad person." Recognizing the shifts in thoughts helps us to remember that anger, sadness, pride, and the others are transitory. None of them determine our worth or our identity, rather, we are, and will always be, reflections of the divine image.
Regarding anger, the early Christian desert dwellers knew this thought as the "blinding passion," in that it obscures one's vision of reality, and of God's presence. In the Praktikos, Evagrius considers anger to be a natural gift, and helpful in one sense--that it motivates us against the troubling thoughts as they manifest in our personal lives and communities. However, anger can very easily get the better of us, and John Cassian, Evagrius's disciple, suggests that God is only capable of wielding the emotion to positive ends. So, when we find ourselves feeling angry, we need to tread carefully.
Personally, when struggling with anger, I have found it helpful to play with the "blindness" metaphor. There is a mountain biking loop at Boyle Park in central Little Rock that takes me about half an hour to complete. It weaves back and forth in maze-like fashion through a thick forest, leading me in and out of gulleys and around quick, banked corners. At the right time of day, the sun shines through the trees at an almost magical angle, the light filtering through the foliage into soft beams bringing a crystal clarity to the woods, making details pop. Given perspective by this newfound sight, whatever anger I had been carrying with me tends to dissolve. My blindness is cured, at least for a while, and decision-making becomes easier.
If anger is blinding you, go "see" something. Whether it's the natural beauty of a forest or paintings in an art museum, sight in one area of our lives can lead to sight where we might need it most. With practice, and with God's help, we can learn to see deeper into ourselves and our relationships, ultimately melting anger into compassion.
Please feel free to reach out to me regarding your prayer experience, or with other questions you might have.