Sunday, March 23, 2014

Desert Days

There are few places that appear less supportive of life than the desert. Lack of moisture is, after all, what makes a desert. And moisture is essential for life. There are, however, degrees of desert - it does not take a whole lot of moisture to sustain some kinds of life. Since the wanderings of Israel, the desert has been a place of testing, of proving. The austerity of the external sharpens focus on the inner.  A wilderness defined by lack, a barrenness that brings nothing but demands much, presses hard against whatever it was that you brought with you into it. It wrings out whatever is in. And then goes back for more.

No wonder then, if we follow Jesus at all closely, we often find ourselves in a desert - in a place of testing, of proving. And, no wonder, when we do, that it is often the same things that get tested in us as were in Him. The scene begins as, water still dripping from His beard, black eyes alight with the life of the life of the newly born, He hears the declaration from the heavens, "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." And, in the next moment, the Holy Spirit descends and rests upon Him - confirming and empowering Him for all that it means to be a loved and pleasing Son.

It gives pause to note that Jesus was driven out into the desert by the Holy Spirit - and, specifically, to be tested. The satan presses in, as is his job, on the core issue of identity - testing, refining, proving. "If you are the Son of God..." So begins the challenge - but only after 40 days of the strength training provided by feasting on nothing but the Word of God. By this time, Jesus is so solid in Who He is that the exchange, were the stakes not so high, almost assumes a cartoon like quality. The three challenges prove that he brought much to the desert with Him - and that, wrung out, it remains pure. He doesn't need to prove Who He is by turning stones into bread. He doesn't need to make the Father prove Who He is by rescuing Him. And, perhaps most important of all, He doesn't need to avoid the pain, the price, the destiny of Who He is, bypassing the cross on the way to Lordship over the world and all its kingdoms.

And so, in these desert days of the consideration of the moment of my death, I am challenged to hear the Voice of the Father, and to remember who I am because of what I hear.

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