Living Water In The Desert Sands

by Timothy Lusch

Fullness In The Empty Quarter

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003), actually Sir Wilfred to be exact, was a British adventurer and writer. Born in Addis Ababa, he spent many years as a participant in African politics and military affairs. Following WWII, he twice trekked across Saudi Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter. An enormous ocean of desert, Thesiger sought hardship in the vast emptiness as a means of living in full. He had a special love and reverence for the Bedouin way of life. No Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up for this guy. He didn’t need to read a book to simplify his life, he simply did it.

In Christianity, the practice of going to the desert to battle demons was especially prominent in the first centuries after the death of Jesus. The early Desert Fathers and Mothers wanted to simplify life to its essence. Work and prayer, overcoming temptation, all under the watchful eyes of God, led these early monastics to great feats of privation and endurance. They became known as “athletes of God.” Today, the desert still has figurative meaning. Many of us speak of being in a spiritual desert. Whether from a death, illness, or other loss, we find life clarified by the emptiness. That is, if we are awake. We often fall back asleep, seeking riches but depriving our spirit. It is to the sleeping that Thesiger speaks, echoing the voices in the desert long ago.

“In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance.”