Desert Journeys 31/3/17

Desert Journeys 23

March 31st 2017

I was brought up in a church going family and I want to connect with the Anglican church in a serious way but am often unable to do so. I leave a service with more, rather than fewer questions so I regard myself as rather a failure as a Christian. I suppose deep down, I am not sure what I believe but I want to find something.

I say all this because three things have inspired me in the last two weeks. On a recent trip to Berlin, my husband and I went on a tour of the Stasi prison and were shown round an enormous complex of buildings including cells and interrogation centres – none of which had any view on the outside world. Incarceration there would have been as vast and blank as any desert. Some of the tour guides are former prisoners who are still visibly re-living their ordeals. Secondly, at the Free Thinking festival in Newcastle this last weekend, the former hostage Terry Waite was being interviewed and he talked about his 5 year imprisonment, much of it in solitary confinement and in the dark. My last inspiration was from a novel by Georgina Harding called, ‘The Solitude of Thomas Cave’. This is the imagined story of a man, in the 17th century, left by a whaling boat who, for a wager, stays alone for an entire winter. The boat returns in the spring and he is alive – just. He survives but never adjusts to normal life.

How would one recover from ordeals like these? Terry Waite said that you had to take control of your mind and establish order in your thinking to enable you to cope. That is exactly what Jesus did when tempted and tormented in the wilderness. He took control of his mind and was able to face what he knew was coming. Thomas Cave also prayed for hours a day. Prayer is the key to that inner strength for us all.

Philippa Owen


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