Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.
Lent has been equated with the spiritual geography of the wilderness. In fact, Lent was patterned after Jesus’ experience in the wilderness, where Jesus was driven by the Spirit after his baptism in the Jordan River. The 40 days of Lent originate from the 40 days Jesus spent there in the wilderness. No one likes the wilderness. It’s often the place where we feel abandoned. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, there’s no avoiding it, and often our only thought is to just get through it.
In the wilderness, our resources quickly dry up and we think it is the place where we are going to die. Soon, all we have is God. But come to find out, that is all we need.
Soon, all we have is God. But come to find out, that is all we need.
The Old Testament Hebrew word for wilderness is “midair,” which has the root word “dâbâr.” Dâbâr, most often translated “word” or “commandment” also translates as “acts.” It means, “to bring into order; to lead, to guide, to rule.” Significantly, dâbâr occurs 1,428 times in the Old Testament!
More than simply a spoken or impersonal word, dâbâr reflects the relational, enlivening, and creative nature of God. So when God speaks, it is always life-giving, personal, creative; it is a guiding word that brings order to our lives.
Life-giving, relational, and guiding. I probably would not have chosen these words to describe the wilderness!
The wilderness could be literally described as a place where God speaks to us personally. It is where we hear, “this is the way, walk in it”; and it includes the idea of being restored in the fullest sense of the word so that one is nourished, enlivened, and made whole.
The wilderness includes the idea of being restored in the fullest sense of the word so that one is nourished, enlivened, and made whole.
Of course, this means our best resource in the wilderness is to listen. This kind of listening may be likened to turning toward someone in order to hear him or her better. It includes intentional, focused attention, and a personal responsiveness to what we hear in relational acts of surrender, openness, and trust.
In other words, when we listen and respond to God’s relational Word, it brings proper order to our lives and aligns us with God’s intent and purposes.
I guess I never thought of the wilderness as a place beaming with life; it was simply a place to get out of as quickly as possible. Come to find out, it is the land of the speaking and where God is most at work. (Or, perhaps, where we are most attentive.)
Come to find out, the wilderness is the land of the speaking and where God is most at work.
What is necessary to listen in such a life-giving way? What obstacles will keep you from taking the journey?
What are you hearing in the land of the speaking? From God? From your deepest self? From your frightened, anxious, fearful, self?
The wilderness always requires a journey. Take some time today to take the first step. I promise you will your way and eventually end up in the Promised Land (which is always God’s presence).