Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matthew 4:1-11)
We are officially ten days into Lent, the season to remember Christ entering the desert for forty days and forty nights. Lent is traditionally a season for the church to engage in spiritual practices such as fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Lent is strongly themed around self-denial and remembering our finite mortality. Just as Jesus fasted for those forty days, he was hungry, expressing his most basic human need: food. Although Jesus was also God, his choice to take on our humanity came with limitations. The Lent season is a strong reminder that we too in fact are human and therefore limited. Though ironically, we often forget this in the midst of trying to accomplish all the things. For me, I am so busy trying to accomplish all the goals I’ve set for myself that I often bump up against my own limitations with a sense of surprise which then leads to frustration. I have been able to fabricate a sense of control over my life that little by little my humanness is forgotten and I become the god who makes things happen.
In the first few years of our marriage, my husband used to turn off all the lights and hide somewhere in our house waiting for the prime opportunity to jump out and scare me. As I began to catch on to his trickery, he would get sneakier and find more strategic hiding spots. Eventually I learned that if I walked into a dark room, I would just stand in the middle and yell “I know you’re in here!” then he’d start laughing. But it took me almost two years to catch on! I was in such a hurry half the time that he didn’t even have to turn off the lights, just hide behind a door! I have often felt like our humanity does the same thing. We tend to forget our humanness or we simply ignore our limitations in order to push ourselves to achieve but our finite nature is lurking in the room just waiting to be seen, “Boo! You’re human!”.
I see this in our American culture. We are a fast-paced, driven people with dreams to accomplish. We are surrounded by millions of people trying to climb to the top and in our climbing we not only forget our humanity, we forget the humanity of those around us. The dehumanization of others is almost a prerequisite to pushing our way to the top. We want financial security, better bodies, comfortable homes and Instagram followers; and so our list of goals grows without limits. But Lent asks us to remember that we are limited. Lent asks us to leave the lush forest of achievement and wander in the desert for a while.
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 4:3-4
Lent asks us to live on the Word of God not the bread we can buy with our hard earned money.
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.’”Matthew 4:5-7
Lent asks us to lay aside our faulty securities and recognize Who is in control.
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.’”Matthew 4:8, 9
Lent asks us to stop serving to receive glory but to give glory to the only One worthy to receive it.
We have entered into a season of wandering the desert. To lay aside our ladder-climbing, glory-seeking, comfort-making ways in order to follow Jesus. Lent simply asks us to participate. This is not a requirement. He does not demand or coerce us to follow. Instead He invites us gently into a season of solitude and fasting. He gently invites us to fast from all the ways that keep us stuffed with ourselves and to step away from the noise that keep us from hearing His voice. Lent asks nothing from us but our obedience. An obedience to be led by the spirit into the desert, to lay down our trophies and pick up our crosses, and follow Him.
This season of Lent I am accepting the invitation of wandering in the desert, to loosen the weighty load of ladder climbing and let myself just be human, accepting my limitations and even beginning to celebrate them because they are what draw me to the One without limits.
So this is me, trading my boots for sandals, taking off my heavy pack and wandering for a bit.