Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous bothered by a thought

“A certain brother was tormented for a full nine years by an thought. Each day he wept and said, in reproach of himself: “I am to blame for this. I will lose my soul.”

“He struggled arduously. In vain, however. It was impossible to get rid of his thought. In the end, his resistance yielded. He fell into desperation. “I have now lost my soul,” he thought.

“Why should I stay in the desert for no reason? I will return to the world.”

“So it was that he set on his way for the city. But as he was walking heavy-hearted, he heard a voice behind him: “O unfortunate man! Is this how you trample on the wreath of unfading flowers which you have been weaving, with your patience for nine years? Go back to finish it!”

“The balm of consolation flowed over the brother’s heart. With a steadfast pace he now set himself on the road back to the desert. And our good God made his thought vanish.”

Have you had the experience where your mind is gripped by an idea, a feeling, a thought, that is reprehensible to you and yet, somehow, you cling to it, nurture it, until it is a source of very great pain? I’ve done that, especially when I think I suffered an injustice.  I want to hold on to it and ruminate over it.

What I’ve learned is that very destructive to myself.  The object of my ruminations is not affected by my thoughts, only I am. If I cling to it, I am like this monk, struggling so much in vain, that he decides to give up and give in. Which is harmful, so harmful.

The truth sets us free, Jesus tells us. This has certainly been my experience. Over and over. Usually, when I have to let go of some thought I first have to forgive someone.  Forgiveness also sets me free.


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