And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
~ John 3:11
This morning I was looking through some old books that I keep on a shelf and I rediscovered the book, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers." Anthony the Great (251 - 351 AD) has long been thought to be the "first" desert father. He was born to a wealthy family in lower Egypt. When he was only twenty years old, his parents died and left him great wealth and the responsibility of his unmarried sister. Why I don't know what drew him to the text in Matthew 19, but he did exactly what it said to do. "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven." (Matthew 19:21)
He gave part of his land away, sold the rest, and gave the proceeds to the poor. He then also found a place that would care for his sister.
Taking up with a hermit, he lived in the area, and is thought to have even battled with the devil, who inflicted him with "boredom and laziness." He then also battled demons, who would sometimes leave him nearly dead, as he lived among the dead in a cemetery.
Not exactly how I thought someone who was focused on living out their faith would begin. He then heads to the desert to live in absolute solitude. After a long period of time, there were others who made their way to the desert as well. When they saw Anthony for the first time, many of them noted how healthy he was. He was full of strength, a clear mind, and faithful.
Years ago I lived the John 3:11 verse out as best as I could. Within this verse, we are reminded that if we have two shirts, we are to give one away. I suddenly found myself giving away the pairs of shoes that I was wearing on my feet. I can remember one homeless man asking, "So what are you going to do now?" after giving him the shoes off my feet.
"I suppose I will go without shoes until I get home to where I have another pair."
And I did. I went to a meeting and walked in without shoes. I didn't realize how it was affecting my family until one year my daughter gave me a pair of shoes and as she handed them to me she said, "These are YOUR shoes. Don't give them away."
I remember the first time I saw the Mojave Desert as a young boy. It was simply so vast, hot, and it seemed endless. There wasn't any shade, and I remember how hot the sand felt in my hands as I gathered handfuls of sand, and allowed them to slowly leave my fist, and travel with the wind as I watched. It wasn't some place where I would think anything could survive, but the desert is full of all kinds of life.
For myself, I am drawn to the woods, or to the beach when I need time to be by myself. For each of us, we have a place where we can go off to be "with God." While God is always present with us, taking intentional, or making life-changing decisions for our faith, can be very personal. Sometimes these decisions, or choices, may not make sense to others. While everything we do in our faith journey may not have Biblical implications, they do affect our faith journey.
Where is it that you can go to be with God?
Remember you are always in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.