Your Daily Lenten Devotional
February 23, 2012
Into the Wilderness
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Focus: The Shadow of Temptation
We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer. Our demon says: “We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal…” But to think this way is harmful…Service and prayer can never be separated; they are related to each other as the Yin and Yang of the Japanese Circle.
–Henri J.M. Nouwen
Day 1: Alone in the Wilderness
The water of Jesus’ baptism is still dripping off his chin, and the voice of God still echoes in his ears–“This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”–when suddenly, at once, immediately, the Spirit launches Jesus, heaves him, catapult-like, out into the wilderness.
Only a moment before, the Spirit has appeared as a dove; now the Spirit is a cutting horse, separating Jesus from everything and everybody that would hinder the moment. Away from the river, away from the crowds, away from city and town, away from Temple and synagogue, away from family and friends, away from everything except the scorpions and scruff grass–now it is just Jesus and the Tempter.
Every year we begin the season of Lent by recalling the temptations of Jesus alone in the wilderness. Why alone? Because alone, away from the distractions, Jesus faced his temptations. That is where the real work begins, for him and for us.
Sometimes we vainly imagine our problem is in the muddle, the mess, the noise and busyness of a day. Too many voices, too many demands–that is what’s keeping us from the kind of life we believe we would live if we had more time and quiet. If we could just get everything and everybody else settled, then we would be settled: we would have time for prayer, for service. We could be the kind of Christians we intended to be when first we made our vows.
Except the problem may be more inside than outside. I too blame my lack of faithfulness on external forces, but if I purpose to be alone, I will be forced to confess a deeper truth: it is not just that I have other stuff to do but that I find things to do. I create busyness if it is not already there.
We are so practiced in the daily maze, so at home in the briar patch, that unbusyness is the real puzzle and thorn. How do we do nothing? Or if not nothing, then create space enough for prayer? This mostly unacknowledged spiritual dilemma is both unconfessed and, more gravely, devoutly unassaulted.
If you are resistant to being alone, try to imagine why. Pray that when you are alone during Lent, whether by choice or circumstance, you will use that time for spiritual discernment.
Shadows Darkness and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus
Thomas R. Steagald
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In Shadows, Darkness and Dawn, daily readings for the season of Lent engage us with the Gospel of John’s narratives about Jesus: the temptation in the wilderness, Nicodemus’s nighttime visit, the encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus, and the events of Holy Week. In pondering these biblical events you’ll be drawn to purposeful Lenten reflection.
Used with the kind permission of our friends at Upper Room Books.