I have been thinking some more about the temptations of the desert experience which I wrote about the other day. To summarise I said Jesus faced three temptations in his desert experience, which are roughly equivalent to trio that tend to trip so many of us up – abuse of: money/resources, sex/relationships and power. I pointed out that the monastic principles of poverty, chastity and obedience are the time honoured prescriptions for these ills.
Since writing that I have considered a fourth desert temptation, which is best faced down, and for which the monastics also had a prescription.
The fourth temptation is to leave the desert – to get out before things get harder. If Jesus had simply walked out of the desert he would have avoided the trials altogether. We too are faced with this temptation, we can walk away from difficult situations, places where people are winding us up, places where we’re tempted to get hold of power and abuse it.
The rule of Benedict, although not the only rule in existence, is certainly the best known – its a cenobitic rule, which means its for people living in community, and we all know that community is where the rubber hits the road in terms of temptation to sin – there’s nobody more annoying than the people who live in the next room… but Benedicts rule insists on one further thing after the poverty, chastity and obedience stuff. Benedict asks for stability – commitment to remaining in a place, with a people.
We’re all tempted to walk away, but there is the challenge of Christ in the desert – will you see this through? Will you stay?
I suspect there’s more of this stuff to come, (let it all out Simon, let it all out…)