It’s been a wilderness-y Lent.
For the first time in maybe twenty years I am not affiliated with a parish and thus not busy with Wednesday Lenten Soup Suppers, programs, or public outreach projects, all the things that an Episcopal parish does during Lent, all the preparations I would normally be knee deep in heading into Easter.
It’s been of my own making and honestly, it’s been ok.
When the wilderness is metaphorical rather than actual, it’s pretty much what one makes of it and so mine isn’t terribly desolate; even without weekly Sunday church attendance, I have a wealth of faith resources at my fingertips and I use them. My Lent Madness bracket is shaping up very nicely this year.
Recently, I came across a description of Lent as (paraphrasing wildly) “a period of 40 days when Jesus went out to be tempted by Satan” and I thought, Dude, you’ve never actually read the Bible, have you?
God knows I am no biblical scholar but (wading in anyway!), it seems to me Jesus went into the wilderness for much more than temptation’s sake (and don’t the temptations abound when one is in a metaphorical wilderness?). Not for nothing do we sometimes fast, abstain from intoxicants, remove external distractions when we need real mental acuity, and not for nothing do introverts like me retreat within when we need to do heavy lifting in our mental work. Whatever the wilderness, it often provides crystal clarity of thought.
The miracle with Jesus is, he sought and got the mental clarity of what was following his 40 days wandering, and he came back anyway. Adulation, followed by scorn, betrayal, an agonizing death, but finally, Resurrection. And he came back and did it anyway. That’s the part that always astounds me. That’s the part that has me yearly restricting my diet, intentionally spending time prayerfully/contemplatively, and restores my faith during Lent regardless of the walls (or lack) surrounding me.
Because I am absolutely not Jesus my wilderness-y epiphanies (see what I did there) are smaller, infinitely mundane, and mercifully don’t involve being nailed to a cross. A big one I have found (so far) is this: we need each other, we humans of every color, creed, and culture. The “church” Jesus called into being was 100% about being in community with one another and 100% NOT about placing barriers between us. Mankind, even introverts like me, are social animals who need each other to survive, at no time more than when in our human folly we think, because we live in a technologically advanced time and location, we don’t. I can have my dinner, books, movies, clothing, entertainment all delivered to my door, and Social Media provides a form of human connection, but nothing replaces an actual, physical community.
And the second epiphany is this: I miss the community, because it is in community we find God. So, I while I will keep wandering my wilderness these next few weeks, my path is circling back, ever closer to the Community.
Where has your wildernesses taken you? What did you see there?
5 thoughts on “Lent in the Wilderness”
When I was younger I was much more plugged into the rhythms of the church, but now I am much more of a free spirit doing Lent in my own way. Which is to say that I didn’t give up anything for it, nor have I felt the need to go find my wilderness. Instead I’ve been focusing more on the concept of clarity. As in what I allow into my mind and heart, creating an awareness about what I’m thinking and why. Sure, it’s kind of navel gazing, but with the intent of being a better person going forward, more in tune with the people around me, less beholden to outdated ideas and behaviors.
Oh, I love this! And it’s been something I have done in some years – taking on a mental discipline rather than, say, giving up chocolate. Sometimes the wilderness is Us, and needs tending. Clearing out the clutter in our heads removes obstacles between us and God, however one understands Her or Him, the collective unconscious, etc.
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Thank you. You’re right about the wilderness inside us. I know my Lenten approach is not mainstream, but it is giving me insight into who I am, where I want to go, and how many obstacles there are within. Maybe next year back to the giving up chocolate!
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Hey, giving up chocolate is H A R D
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