On the Way to the Cross: The Desert Luke 4: 1-13

Child in Grocery CartA mother takes her three-year-old girl to the grocery store.  A man noticed the child fussing for cookies.  He heard the mother say, “Erin, we’re halfway done, it won’t be long.”  He passed them on another aisle as the girl shouted for candy.  He heard Mom say, “Don’t cry Erin, we only have two more aisles, and we’ll be checking out.”  The man was behind them at the checkout, when the little girl had a tantrum upon discovering there would be no gum.  The mother whispered, “We’ll be through the check out in five minutes Erin, and we can go home and take a nap.”  The man stopped the woman in the parking lot to compliment her.  “I noticed how you patiently responded to your little girl Erin.”  The mother said, “My little girl’s name is Tara, I’m Erin.”

This inner person of this mother was tested.  Her false self tempted to believe she can manage with her same old parental ways.  Our usual ways keep us control, serve our own purposes; and prop up the false self; fool us into thinking we have to be more than what we really are; children of God in need of the grace of God in all our ways.  This mother was living into her true self, which requires a great amount of patience with the situation and herself.  She cultivated the true self within her, so her words and actions look more like God.  The true self takes the path least traveled where there are not always easy answers.  The tests of life that happen in the deserts of life allow God’s Spirit to shape our inner self.Jesus Tempted

On the first Sunday of Lent, we read of Jesus temptations in the desert.  The story follows Jesus’ affirming experience at his baptism.  Afterwards, God sends him packing into the desert to fast and pray.  One minute he is the unique Son of God bringing salvation, and the next moment he faces stern tests.  The temptations allow Jesus to make distinctions between his true and false self.  He is faced with questions like: Will he be a Messiah by doing, changing stones to bread?  Will he be a Messiah by having, claiming political power?  Will he be a Messiah that establishes himself so others esteem because of his with religious certainty?  Let’s walk with Jesus into the desert on his way to the cross.

The text says, “The devil comes to Jesus to test him”.  The emphasis isn’t on the devil; it’s on the deity.  Jesus wasn’t seduced by Satan; the Spirit of God wooed Jesus into the desert.  In the desert, he would be stripped of anything that contributed to his false self; promoting of any illusions of self-sufficiency.  The path to be in touch with his true self is honed in the choices he makes to trust God to provide what was needed in the desert and for every other step toward the cross.

The tests allow Jesus to discover his true self, as he depends upon God for soul nourishment, rather than satisfying his short-term hunger.  The tests allow Jesus to discover his true self as trust God’s upside down ways, which flattens the mighty and exalts the lowly, rather than choose to grab for power.  The test allows Jesus to be true to his self; being God’s messiah that would travel a road to a cross and open grave, rather than choose to be a people’s messiah of convenience.  All these tests were necessary as Jesus established his true self on his way to the cross.

Jordan DesertThe way to cross passes through a desert where our; inner hungers, outward ambitions, and sense of what we want others to think of us are tested.  The choice we face is: will we be the true self we have been fashioned to be; or will we hold onto that false self, encouraged by this world and all of it distractions.  Our reluctance in entering the desert is understandable; we believe we’re not prepared to face the struggles that will arise there.  So, we tend to prefer distractions rather than deserts.

We must go to the desert to hone free will, facing similar uncertainties that Jesus underwent on his way to the cross.  We don’t have the ability to completely sustain ourselves and/or survive in the desert.  The desert reminds us we don’t possess the inner or outer capacity to perfectly choose the right thing all the time.  We realize in this place our false self, which thinks it is self sufficient, has nothing to offer.  We lean into our true self that draws on the Spirit; waiting on God to provide for our needs and tend to our concerns.  Our free will is honed and walks out of the desert being true to who God made us; choosing to connect more deeply to the pure love of God and relate more lovingly to friend and stranger.

We must go to the desert to fully experience the mercy of God; facing similar trials of suffering, which Jesus underwent on his way to the cross.  When we suffer the tests of the desert, we know we’re not in control, which disarms our either/or thinking-a primary tool of the false self.  Suffering usually happens against our will; undermining the false self categories of deserving and undeserving.  The sufferings in the desert provide ‘God Experiences’ we can’t manufacture.  When we suffer in the desert, we grasp the greater dimensions of undeserved mercy, which is a fundamental necessity in developing our true self, which God wants us to personally know. Praying Hands Mercdy

Some of us are living in our desert.  We used to be healthy, but now we live in a physical need.  We used to be employed, but now we live in financial strains.  We used to be self-confident, but now we live in emotional turmoil.  We used to be person of deep faith, but now we live in moments of doubt and cynicism.  We want these uncertainties and sufferings removed.  God does not lure us to the desert, so we can transform it.  God leads us to the desert, so the desert can transform us.  The desert is the place we discover the abundant grace of God that can fill us up for the next steps of our journey.  As much as we might fear the desert, we may not know life fully until we discover intimately the God who will meet us in the desert.

We are to be open to the desert for a season; knowing our free will is being honed and we are experiencing the greater dimensions of the mercy of God.  We are to cast aside the false self of control and cling to the true self that comes alive as we deepen our trust in a God who will see us through the desert.  We do not fear or rush through the desert; it is a privileged place that deepens our trust in the midst of uncertainty and suffering.

Horse WhispererTom Booker in “Horse Whisperer” tames a beautifully dangerous horse named Pilgrim.  The horse was spooked and considered damaged goods.  The mother of girl who owns Pilgrim is fearful the wild stallion will hurt her child, so she wonders if she should put the horse down or give it away.  The mother reaches out to Booker, a horse mystic, who communicates with horses.  Booker never admits he has the gift, but it’s clear he speaks a language that soothes upset souls and hushes dark voices.  As Booker addresses the horse with soft, almost inaudible tones, the horse becomes a better horse than it was even before the accident.

Some of us are named, Pilgrim, we’re facing tough tests that feel unique, but are common to all.  We feel uncertain about our prospects and eventual outcome.  Hold onto faith no matter how loud our fears call to settle for less by making short-term choices that protect the false self.  This will hinder the growth of the true self that come as God provide more than enough grace to help us walk through the badlands of life.  In the desert, the offer of God’s grace becomes real because our life depends on God.  Our true self is made stronger if we tune our ears to Heaven’s Whisperer who speaks to the true person God has made us to be.

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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