Truth Despite the Wilderness.

((from Steph))

To be quite frank I didn’t feel like writing today.

Truth is, I had been hoping for an outcome and received the news today that that hope was not fulfilled. I feel blah and wordless and ultra-not-creative. I think that in times such as these, the times that result otherwise than how we had hoped or prayed or thought were divinely whispered, it is really easy to be consumed by discouragement and confusion.

I don’t know about you but when these days and seasons come my way I tend to question myself and God quite a lot. I walk a fine line between the two trenches of self-doubt and pride, opposite sides of the same coin. So all that to say, I don’t feel I have much to offer to you all right now outside what I know to be true. And maybe that’s the point anyway. Because no matter how great any of us are at putting our thoughts onto a page, the reality is that nothing is new under the sun and praises belong to God alone.

This week each of us were asked to write about Lent. Although there are seven of us with different stories and voices, what I find striking is the common theme emerging–we all hoped for a reflective season and instead have been disappointed with our own abilities to keep up. All of us desire to know God more deeply. All of us struggle with doing “good” enough. All of us wanted one of those Lents where we receive a vision from an angel out of our newfound practice of self-denial…bonus points if that experience is Insta-worthy enough to compete with all those Instagrammers out there rocking the bible quiet-time hashtags.

But, that’s not what’s happened. At least not for me.

Over the years Lent has transformed for me from a 40 day “give up cookies even though it’s Girl Scout season” to a time of repentance and preparation for Easter. Lent is no longer a “what are you giving up?” for me as it is a “how are you preparing your heart in order to fully accept the gift of resurrected life and then share that gift with others?” trial of heart.

Lent is meant to be a time of self-examination and reflection that emulates the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan before the beginning of his ministry. Matthew writes that Jesus was tempted three times, each of which tests Jesus’ obedience to his Father.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4

Think about this one – Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. I don’t know about you but I can’t go much longer than a few hours without wanting to eat my arm off. I’m assuming, then, that Jesus was probably pretty hungry and disgruntled, as any other human being would be wandering the wilderness on a 40 day fast. Jesus could have ended his plight by turning stones into bread – but doing so would undermine the will of his Father. Satan here is trying to distract Jesus from the spiritual preparation in which the Spirit has led him by satisfying a material need. (So much to unpack here, but for the sake of word count we will move on.) Jesus chooses the Father’s will and not his own. The story continues:

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Satan’s second temptation is a spiritual test rooted in a scripture proof text battle. Satan knew who Jesus was – the messiah. His “if you are” is more a “since you are” and here, Satan tempts Jesus with a quote from the Psalms. Jesus’ response is also rooted in scripture, in Deuteronomy, that addresses trust in God.
Jesus knew he had nothing to prove. Jesus chose to trust in his Father’s process (the wilderness) and obey.

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me. Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:5-11

The last and final temptation in the wilderness shows Satan pulling out all stops. Satan asks Jesus to worship him. Jesus expels Satan from his presence and denies to worship anyone or anything other than his Father. Satan flees from the scene. (If you’re interested, read this commentary on the parallels of Jesus’s temptation to that of Adam and Eve in Genesis. It’s fascinating!)

Jesus, despite his questioning, suffering or discomfort in his wilderness (probable hopeless feeling) season choses to trust and obey God. In his own season of “lent” God was preparing Jesus for his ministry because through this season, Jesus was encouraged and strengthened spiritually in order to carry out the rest of God’s will for him on earth.

Your Lenten season may be lack-luster like mine. It may also be trending. Either way, I think reflection upon Jesus’s own wilderness season, the one in which our traditional Lent is based, provides for us a guide we can use to carry us toward Easter Sunday and the true meaning of these 40 days in the first place.

Let us ask ourselves the same questions Jesus was posed. Do we answer like him? Likely not, (and that’s okay) but let us use this season to notice and to realign ourselves to God’s character.

Temptation 1: What bread of life are we chasing after in order to appease our pains and sorrows? Are we willing to choose “suffering” when it’s tied to trust and obedience to God’s will?

Temptation 2: What kingdoms do we wish we ruled? When do we most often exalt ourselves over God? 

Temptation 3: What do we worship outside of God alone? What does worship look like? How do we begin to change course?

In peace my friends,

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