Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wildernessto be tempted by the devil.
What tempts you?
Wine, women/men, and song? Dancing, smoking, chew? Fast cars, big houses, gambling, and
Okay. Maybe. To some degree. Sometimes.
The usual suspects are the usual suspects for a reason. But it’s also convenient to conjure up the
juiciest cable TV-ready temptations as a kind of decoy.
We roll all these bad boys into a
metaphorical ball and toss it so far down the field we don’t have to deal with
the genuine, down and dirty temptations right under our noses.
Which brings us to the season of Lent, this
40-day season between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection of the Lord Sunday.
We know now that giving up something, like
chocolate or shopping or binge watching Walking
Dead, is only one approach. We know
we can also take on something like a
spiritual practice or mission.
good in both of these Lenten paths. This
year I’d like to suggest another:
confronting the tough wilderness right where we are.
A thread running through our religious sensibility is that
God is something to be pressed onto an unwilling world, and we’re the ones to
do the pressing. The truth is that God
is already in the world, and family members, and friends, and countries, and
institutions, and situations, and all the things we care about. And also all the things that frighten
us. Our task is to open our eyes to
God’s presence, which is no small task.
The wilderness is where that happened for Jesus. It’s that place where the wild things
are. Where the usual points of reference
recede to leave us exposed, as if on a pinnacle or broad, flat plain. It seems desolate. God forsaken.
But God is already there, redeeming it, shaping true, authentic identity
out of temptation.
Maybe we’re in a wilderness of some kind right here and now
in our nation, the world, or in our own hearts, tempted by different, real,
down and dirty temptations. I’m tempted
by blissful befuddlement. “It’s just so
complicated,” I say, and retreat.
Overwhelming anxiety and deadly despair corrode my sense of wellness and
weaken my sense of God’s presence. Some
walk the wilderness of the unwelcome refugee, the idled lumber mill worker, the
traumatized immigrant or undocumented resident, or the margins of economic
prosperity, and wonder if God is there.
Jesus meets us in all these through his own wilderness
temptation. We’re invited to grapple
with who we really are as human beings, as Christian citizens, and even as a
nation. To get a little clearer about
what our earthy, dusty, and beloved-by-God selves are all about.
Let Lent be something
for you – a giving up, a taking on, a wilderness walk, a coming to terms with
yourself and with God, practicing the presence of Christ, or something
In any case, know that we do it
together, and that God’s Spirit is there with you in the place Jesus has