Summary: What Jesus teaches his disciples is not an empty phrase or a useless theory, but a reality that is proved by personal experiences of himself and of many of his followers and even by the findings of modern psychology: "He who loves his life loses it, and h
A river wanted to flow to the sea through a desert. But it got afraid when it saw the immense dry sand. It complained: "The desert will drink my water, the hot breath of the sun will destroy me and I will be reduced to merely a stinking swamp". Then it heard a voice:"Trust the desert!" But the river replied: "But, then, would I still be the same? Wouldn’t I lose my identity?" The voice said:"You can in no way remain the same!" So the river trusted the desert and began to flow through it. The heat of the sun turned her into vapour, the wind carried her as clouds over the hot stretches of the desertsand, she was formed into a rain and out of the clouds came down a new, fresher and a more beautiful river on the other side of the desert. And the river became so happy and said: "Now I am my real self!"
Barrenness, dryness or difficult times belong not only to individuals, but also to groups, people, nations and enterprises. They are transitional phases over to the new times of change and transformation. They are unpleasant and they arouse fear and insecurity. Therefore people search desperately for ways and means to avoid them -- like the river in our story. And for those who are pushed into this desert, into the frightening transitional stages, our industries promise and provide various packages to help ignore or forget the thirst, the hunger, the difficulties, the possibilities of interior inventions, or even to solve them: consumption, pleasure, entertainment, sport and drugs. But Jesus tells us that only those who trust the desert and its dryness, only those who let change and transformation come into life, will ultimately successfully reach the sea of their deepest longing, and will grow and mature and one day will be able to say: "Now I am my real self!"
Jeremiah 31.31-34 speaks of the people of God that experiences such a barrennes in life. Israel comes to an end politically and economically. Jerusalem is invaded, the temple is destroyed, its leaders are killed and the people are deported. Israel has lost its identity and it is reduced to a nobody among its neighbours. In this context God sends the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim to them to which new shores this barrenness and these difficulties would lead them. Jeremiah proclaims that the wisdom of the desert and its thirst can lead the people to new transformations and changes in life: "Look, after those days, I will make with the house of Israel a new covenant. I will put my law within them and I will write it on their heart; I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer 31.33).
This promise of Jeremiah is fulfilled in Jesus. With the coming of Jesus into this World, the desert and its thirst in the life of man take on a new meaning. Difficulties of transitional periods in life are not difficulties, but they are opportunities for growth and maturity. The law that Jesus writes on our hearts -- love -- has to walk through the thirsty deserts of our life. There is no other way possible. Jesus himself goes through the thirsty deserts of human life in order to express his love for the world and all who live in it. Jesus goes the same difficult way of a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies in order to grow into a more fruit-bearing plant. The resurrection -- the new form of existence through the faith of the thousands of following generations -- has been the result. He has become a never-dying plant out of which people of all times draw their spiritual nourishment.
And we know, ever since the life of Jesus, to which sea our liferiver moves towards, when we take courage to trust the desert-stages of our life: to the sea of happiness and to the love of God and one another. One who believes in this sea beyond the desert need not desperately cling on to what s/he has and is, but can trust the pains, insecurities and difficulties of life and find the shore of a new peace, happiness and community. What Jesus teaches his disciples is not an empty phrase or a useless theory, but a reality that is proved by personal experiences of himself and of many of his followers and even by the findings of modern psychology: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal" (Joh 12.25).
Eva-Maria Zwyer, Gottes Wort im Kirchenjahr 2003. pp. 53-54.