Become who you are meant to be

CHALLENGE YOUR DEMONS AND BECOME WHO YOU ARE TRULY MEANT TO BE

Lent is the journey into the desert to experience solitude. The story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1 -11) before he begins his public ministry affirms the importance of taking time out to reflect on our identity, explore the possibilities for our existence and finding the courage to persevere in our calling.  The story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is a story of profound significance for the modern audience. It challenges the modern lifestyle which discourages us from depriving ourselves, where we are encouraged to indulge, be digitally connected 24/7. Solitude and silence are regarded with suspicion, as things to be avoided.

Many of us avoid solitude and silence because they challenge our sense of self. Father Ron Rolheiser, suggests that the desert “is the place where one does battle with Satan.” (Our Deepest Longing, pg. 53) Within our solitude, we face our demons head-on, and we are confronted by all our baggage and dark spots. Sometimes, we resist going into the silence and quiet because we do not like what we see there but sometimes this confrontation leads us to the deeper truth that we are capable of being better. I am so glad my Year 11s understand this.

In other words, we need to find that desert place where we too can find our true self, resist the temptation of others to claim and define us, and grow into who we truly are meant to be. In order to find this true self, we need to be able to silence those negative voices, overcome distractions and nourish our soul. The desert experience, ironically, allows us to thrive, despite seeming deprivation, despite hunger, discomfort, silence and solitude.

Our demons can challenge us. They can create anxiety, or we can choose to see them for what they are – opportunities for spiritual and personal growth. Sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zone and discover who we really are and what we are truly capable of. Our demons can be defeated when we confront them, but we can only confront them when we are truly self-aware.

Our ethical responsibilities

Students in Years 9 to 12 have been thinking about the importance of belonging, being, finding meaning and considering our ethical responsibilities. All these themes are linked by the common thread focusing on the need for self-reflection, of taking time out, disconnecting for the pressures of life and finding that desert place where we can confront the challenges to being and living our true self.

I had a conversation about confrontation with my Year 11 RE class. We have been exploring the concept of self-actualisation and they completed a test which allows them to reflect on their own experience. One of my students said she was quite confronted with the results. When I asked her if this confrontation could be an opportunity for growth, she saw the results differently.  The desert is a place where we can confront our own weaknesses, things which impede us from being our best selves.

Our Year 9s have been exploring the theme of belonging in the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Part of this exploring involves investigating rituals and beliefs of these faiths, all of which emerged from desert environments. A recent activity examined the significance of the Sabbath for Jews.  Most students were surprised at how much Jewish rituals focus on celebration, particularly the Shabbat. While the Shabbat is a ritual celebration, it also invites us to enter joy, in the company of those we love, living in relationship with a God who loves us. Shabbat was conceived in the desert and practised in the desert before it ever became a ritual in urban environments.

  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside.
  5. Avoid commerce.
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.

Students noted that the Christian celebration of the Sabbath has been overshadowed by Sunday trading, sporting fixtures, multiple entertainment, general family business and does not really lend itself to taking time out as the Jewish celebration does.

Modern Positive Psychology tells us that in order to recover our sense of self and we need to spend some time doing the following

  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Nurture our health.
  3. Get outside.
  4. Avoid commerce.
  5. Find silence.
  6. Give back.

Exploring spirituality

Year 10 students have been exploring spirituality in various traditions and forms. They have been challenged to reflect on how they can implement spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, gratitude and friendship with God.  in their own lives Some of their journal reflections demonstrate a deep understanding of the need to find space to connect with the God of their heart.

Our Year 12 students are currently exploring ethical issues and how to live a good life. The desert experience is crucial for those who are going to make critical decisions about themselves, the way they relate to others and to their God and how they can be of service to others. Year 12s have been challenged to confront evil and not be a bystander to evil. They are being empowered to think critically about themselves, their needs and the needs of others and how these needs can be met justly

Lent is a time in which we are called to go out deliberately into the desert.  What are these deserts we can enter during Lent?  Silence, prayer, fasting from something (food, tv, social media, …), giving away money or possessions for the good of others. At SFX we have a wonderful tradition of supporting Project Compassion as a whole school community.

All of these are ways to create a desert in our life, where we will face our inner demons, will face temptations, will see things more clearly as they truly are.  When we embrace these Lenten practices, it is like entering the desert to lead us to greater union with God and to greater wisdom and holiness.

Becky Eldridge, in her article ‘Desert Time’ calls us to ‘use our Lenten time to be led by the Spirit to have the courage to head into the desert as Jesus did. We pray that during these weeks of Lent, God will strengthen us in our weakness the way Jesus was strengthened. As St. Paul reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Jesus’ time in the desert prepared him to begin his public ministry. When we leave our desert time and confront our demons with God’s help, we are stronger. It is in the desert time—our time of prayer, solitude, and aloneness with God—that God readies us for our next steps.

Anne Armstrong
Religious Curriculum Coordinator

 

More reading and viewing

https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/desert-time/

https://www.catherineofsienachurch.ca/the-deserts-of-life-a-path-to-greater-wisdom-and-holiness/

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/henrykarlson/2016/08/there-are-many-paths-to-holiness/

http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjmjZWHXKFY 2 min

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xuKKUGdSlg 14 min

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