Exodus 90: a cold shower in the desert
I am in the closing days of Exodus 90- a pretty rigorous guided spiritual exercise that extends Lent by 50 days. What results is a 90 day spiritual kick in the pants. It has been equal parts hard and awesome.
Apparently it takes 90 days for the brain to break old habits and form new ones. Also, Exodus 50 would be lame and Exodus 180 would be soul crushing, so... 90. And seriously, who doesn’t want a longer Lenten experience?
Fraternity, Prayer, and Asceticism
These are the cornerstones of the experience that get you through. One cornerstone makes the process possible, one cornerstone makes the process painful, one makes the process bearable. Combining all three of them makes the process fruitful.
Fraternity: A weekly gathering of men with whom to pray, encourage, and reflect on the experience.. It provided the accountability, insight, and comradery necessary to tackling the challenge possible.
Prayer: The disciplined prayer was almost certainly the most challenging aspect. Not that prayer is hard, but time is hard. A daily hour in prayer, at least 20 minutes of that in contemplative silence. Included in this is a daily scripture study from the book of Exodus that guides the user along his own Exodus.
Asceticism: The flashiest part of the journey- the part people find most fascinating. Truthfully, the cold showers are the most fascinating part. (What?! Why would you do that?) Turn pretty much everything off, cut out distractions and a number of daily comfort items (see you in 90 days hot showers, snacks, alcohol, social media, etc.) and regain the ability to say "no" to the things that we have given control of our time/life.
“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
I'm terrified I'm going to want to do it again.
This experience has been hard and I kind of hated how hard it was. However, this experience has also been life giving and remarkably great. I hate the phrase "hurts so good" but that kind of applies.
My prayer life has seldom been as strong and focused as it is now. Being able to feel a clear sense of where God is leading me and where God is challenging me and then seeing the Holy Spirit move in my life has been profound.
I've gotten into an awesome practice of praying for the intentions of others. If you've crossed my path or popped into my head or for whatever reason been on my mind in the past 90 days, you have most likely ended up in my prayer- you are welcome.
I've been able to identify small things that I had given way too much control over my life - seemingly insignificant things like listening to news radio every time I get in my car, having a drink or two every evening, eating junk food all day between meals.
I've also lost weight, which is a problem in my situation. I've had to modify certain aspects of the plan in order to accommodate my wife with whom I share a life. I'm also whiney and absolutely hate cold showers. So there are things that make me hesitant to do it again, but the benefits are so good.
You spend long enough in the desert and you begin to understand that there is life waiting there, one just has to look past all that sand and heat. There is a path hidden in the sand. There is a shepherd who guides his flock. There is freedom hidden in sacrifice and suffering. There is conversation in the silence. The are rivers flowing in the desert.
Thanks to Meghan, Pierre, Andy, Anne Marie, and Kyle for being on this journey with me in one capacity or another.