November 8, 2021•428 words
Dear members of the Desert Prayers community,
Thank you for your interest and 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. As we move through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, preparing for and welcoming God’s presence among us, I will email weekly notes on the thoughts that we have reported commonly experiencing—shared stumbling blocks along our spiritual path.
The most often reported thought this week is pride. This is not necessarily surprising, as pride is traditionally considered to be the root of the eight thoughts. On the surface, pride is associated with self-confidence, self-reliance, self-control, self-assuredness--a lot of "self" related qualities. These are admirable traits, generally speaking, but pride becomes a stumbling block when "self" becomes "self-ish," and we forget that real strength comes not from us but from God.
I am reminded of the passage in Matthew when Jesus stills the storm. The disciples and Jesus were in a boat when a windstorm arose. The disciples, fearing being swamped, were panicked. They had no capacity to save themselves, as the raging winds and rising waters were far beyond their power to control. Their impulse was to imagine the worst. Jesus, who had been sleeping as the storm grew, awoke to find his disciples at their wit's end. "Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm." And the disciples were amazed.
As the disciples learned, pride will only get us so far. There will inevitably be times when we find our capacity to save ourselves or others lacking, and it's easy to panic. When our default coping strategy of self-reliance fails us, where do we turn? Like the disciples did that day at sea, we often forget that Jesus, our true strength, is always with us. Over-reliance on ourselves can lead to patterns of worry and anxiety in our lives. The more we learn to recognize the presence of God, and God's amazing and limitless capacity to handle those things that we can't, we will begin to meet crises with calm rather than chaos.
The desert father, Evagrius, notes that confronting pride leads to the cultivation of prudence, understanding, and wisdom in the soul. Coming to terms with our personal limits helps us to make better decisions and to be a clearer source of Christ’s calm for others.
Please feel free to reach out to me regarding your prayer experience, or with other questions you might have.