A few years ago, I had the opportunity to have a quiet retreat in a very special place: The Western Desert of Egypt. You might have heard some places described as a “thin place”. It might be a particular church or property or even a region. There is no doubt that the Western Desert is a thin place.
That is, it is a place where the “veil” that separates us from the spiritual realm is very thin. Another way to say it is that the Western Desert is a great place to seek God’s presence because He seems to be particularly near.
That is because women and men have sought God in this region, sometimes in isolation and often in monasteries, for centuries. They have lived lives totally dedicated to God and many have been martyred over the centuries as a result of the ebb and flow of anti-Christian sentiment.
During my short retreat, I wrote three brief devotionals which will be posted over the next few days.
From time to time I meet someone whose Christ-like character shines like a lighthouse from deep within. Perhaps you also have met such a person. I have found that I am drawn like a magnet to their presence that seems to exude love and warmth and sometimes, in spite of most difficult circumstances, a deep sense of contentment and shalom. Along with being drawn to them, I feel a paradoxical sense of discomfort. I fear that they can see right through my relatively shallow character and that I am in constant danger of being unmasked.
More often than not, these godly individuals are not from our Western world, but are from a part of the world that is thought of as undeveloped. They often come from a nation or region where the Church has been persecuted and they have suffered their share of pain.
I think of a little Korean woman I met in China. Jesus himself seemed to shine from her face and everything she said and did was flavored with godliness and grace. She had spent about one third of her life in prison in both China and North Korea and yet she continued to fearlessly preach Christ in all circumstances. In her presence, I felt like a spiritual pigmy.
Such an experience—and I’ve had several—provokes fundamental questions: is great spiritual maturity reserved only for those whose circumstances produce suffering? Is it possible to experience sustained spiritual growth in a comfortable Western environment? Is persecution and privation required for spiritual maturity?
Surely God does not discriminate between races or nationalities and has not abandoned us to a spiritual fate that is determined by where we happened to be born. Rather, the scriptures are clear that he shows himself and draws near to those who seek him whole-heartedly.
(Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.)
So, there must be hope for those of us who were born into a more comfortable life-style. There must be a way for us to grow in Christ continuously. That is my desire and I hope it is yours.
Take some time to pray and tell God that you want spiritual growth and maturity. Tell him that you long to have more intimate fellowship with him and that you will not shrink back, even if the price is very high.