Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the First Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer)
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. (Matthew 4:1-2)
When I listened to the lectionary readings in church yesterday (well, heard maybe more than listened), it was the usual story. Jesus had been baptized and was then led (or “driven” in Mark) by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. A little earlier today, however, I spent some time reflecting on it and praying with it. What did the “usual story” say to me? Where did I see myself in it?
Well, if you’ve read the last few posts, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the wilderness spoke to me. Much of my life has felt like that the last several years. “Forty days and forty nights” isn’t meant to be taken literally but rather indicates a very long time. It feels like my time in the wilderness has been much longer than forty days. Hopefully, it won’t turn out to be forty years of wandering.
When I prayed after reflecting, I asked God what part the Spirit played in that. Part of me wants to find blame. Of course, I’m too nice to try to blame God; so my natural tendency is to blame myself. Neither of those is probably very healthy. I do bear responsibility for getting here and also for staying here so long, but where has God been in that?
I’m not sure. I want to believe that the wilderness, as so often in Scripture and church history, is a place of seeking and refining. Is there a reason behind this? I don’t know. Am I here to seek? What if I can’t find what I’m supposed to find? Or is there anything to find? Do I stay because of laziness and inertia? Because I haven’t found what I think is the answer? Because God isn’t ready for me to leave?
I hope it’s not the last one. The others mean there’s something I can do, not so much with the last. This has been such a tiring and trying time, and it’s hard to see what the purpose is. After the forty days and nights, Jesus was famished. I am too. I’m hungry for more than what I have right now, more than what I’m doing. What is that “more”? For now, maybe it’s simply to keep going along the road through the wilderness?