by Rachel Srubas
Here, near Lent’s empty center,
the loneliness goes to your bones.
Even Jesus in the desert
must have wondered why
he’d abandoned his life
to live on nothing but visions
and ominous animal visitations.
It all began with such promise—the thrill
of turning thirty,
when reality pivoted for him
and gained a clarity so forceful
it didn’t matter who thought he was crazy.
He dropped to his knees in a rush of earthen water,
and a wild man doused his head.
The severed sky, a dove diving,
a voice immense with love overtook him,
and wind decisive as a hand
drove him up the slick riverbank,
past repentant, dripping believers,
out beyond the village’s edges,
straight into the bloodless, unpeopled heart
of the wilderness,
like no heart at all.
Loneliness is a gentle word for this
solitude Jesus endured,
for which you, in strange, singular courage
The temptation to flee
before a fiercer word than loneliness emerges, a silence
deeper than prayer descends,
gnaws and taunts you from within, like hunger,
here, where breezes go nearly unheard
because there’s no one for them to disturb
who have relinquished all you thought
you couldn’t live without,
for what? To search
for all you really need.
Rachel Srubas is the author of Oblation: Meditations on St. Benedict’s Rule and City of Prayer: 40 Days with Desert Christians. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she serves as the pastor of Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church.