Into the Wilderness

Beloved in Christ,

There’s a television program that Christina and I quite like called ‘Alone’. Contestants are dropped off in the remote wilderness, totally cut off from civilization. Each contestant is allowed to bring ten items with them in addition to the camera equipment and satellite phone they are given (they call the crew to come and get them when they’ve had enough). No shelter. No food. No companion. Just the individual. Alone. In the wilderness. And yes, there are bears. The winner is the last person remaining.

Of course the physical challenge of it is interesting. Most, if not all, of the contestants are trained survivalists. They are experts in building shelters, hunting and fishing, identifying edible shrubs and plants. It is fascinating to watch.

But in my view the real challenge is the mental/emotional/spiritual one. You cannot win unless you’re mentally/emotionally/spiritually strong, but you don’t know whether or not you’re mentally/emotionally/spiritually strong until you get out there. That’s the paradox. Most of the contestants, though trained survivalists, have never found themselves in a situation like this before. A situation in which their skills and knowledge are tested in realtime and not just in a controlled simulation. 

Christina and I have watched (from the comfort of our couch!) as some contestants have quit within hours of being dropped off after spotting evidence of a bear, while other contestants have gone on for months, sustaining themselves on things like soup made from the stomach contents of a deer they successfully hunted.

OK, here’s the point. The wildness has a way of stripping you down – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. The wilderness is where you go to discover what you’re made of, or not. The wilderness is a place of vulnerability and exposure.

The first Sunday of Lent begins in the wilderness. Jesus, after his baptism in the Jordan “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” (Matthew 4:1). Matthew tells us that “he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” Then, the tempter came. (NB: The Judean wilderness in which Jesus fasted and prayed is pictured above with the Jordan river/valley in the background.)

For you and I Lent is a sort of spiritual wilderness. We’re invited to venture out of our comfort zone and, by prayer, penitence, and fasting, to join our Lord in the wild. We may abstain from something good or fast in some capacity. We may take up the reading of Scripture or the practice of prayer with greater diligence. We may examine ourselves and get honest about our sin or be more generous with our money and resources. All with a single goal in mind: to come more fully alive to the Gospel of our Saviour.

As a spiritual wilderness Lent is challenging. We are stripped down and vulnerable and we find out what we’re made of. But we also find out what our Saviour is made of, and when we keep our eyes fixed on him we discover that when we are weak, he is strong, and that his strength is made perfect in our weakness.

“I therefore invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditation upon God’s holy Word.”

I wish you a blessed and holy Lent. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

JRT+

ps – Please visit our website HERE to discover tips and resources to help make Lent a holy time.

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