There is a story from the Desert Fathers and Mothers about a young monk who asked one of the holy men of the desert why it is that so many people came out to the desert to seek God and yet most of them gave up after a short time and returned to their lives in the city. The old monk responded: “Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert, and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined the chase, barking and running. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the wilderness was echoing the sounds of their pursuit, but the chase went on into the night. After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt.”
“Do you understand,” the old man said, “what I have told you?”
“No,” replied the young monk, “I don’t. Please help me with it.”
“It is simple,” said the desert father. “My dog saw the rabbit!”The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Benedicta Ward, SLG.
As a younger man, in a different life, I learned many a valuable lesson. The first is very simple; humans need help to see in the dark. Spending a great deal of time working in pitch black I used to be able to see great distances at night using night vision goggles. When driving, for example, I had infra-red headlamps that with the naked eye did nothing to help, but as soon as I donned my Darlek-like goggles that were tuned to the same wavelength of light, I could see as far as they illuminated (albeit in green!) The second is also as simple. When faced with a shock or sudden change, we automatically cling to what we are used to, how we have been trained to respond and often prioritise those things that are most important to us; psychologically this both comforts us and buys us space to begin the process of adapting to our new surroundings. It’s good, it’s how we have been made. For me, for example, it’s been been ten days of food banks, medicine delivery, children’s worship and discipleship (can’t escape my four angels at home), trying to gather on skype, helping to make sure that community continues amongst those that are not internet savvy. Trying to adapt my ‘normal’ to fit into a different shape. You will have your own stories and priorities.
Last night I was reminded of one of my favourite stories from the Desert Fathers (see above). The business of my life, the routines and the familiar are so akin to a great chase. And yet as I begin to slow, the initial responses to sudden change are giving way slowly to a new routine. And yet however necessary, i’m aware that I still need to remain alert. Reshaping my old may be right for this season, but will it be right for the next? The Bible teaches us that not only do we see with our natural eyes, but also our spiritual, the eyes of our heart. So today’s encouragement for me, as well as perhaps you is this. If we look into the darkness, the unknown, inevitable change, with eyes that are tuned to his light, we will perhaps begin to glimpse a new way ahead for each and every one of us.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wood animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.Isaiah 43: 19-21.
Watch for the White Rabbit.