By Rebecca Stoltzfus, president
This week’s theme: “God’s hand delivers us”
This year, Lent opens with scriptures about wilderness. The wilderness experience is core to the sacred identity of the people of God: Then you shall declare to the Lord your God, “My father was a wandering Aramean. . . .” (Deut 16:5). That is who we are in our faith tradition. We are experienced wanderers.
Wilderness is the area that lies beyond the boundaries of our map. Our rules and habits are insufficient. We have never been here before. The gift of wilderness is that it compels us to draw upon new faculties, to be urgently attentive to new signals and clues. It invites us to shed the map, no longer useful. We must find our compass and find our way with a qualitatively different kind of sense-making and path-finding.
Jesus’ experience in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13) demonstrates these elements. We might consider the devil in this story as the one who offers Jesus maps. Tempted to live within the maps of cultural and social powers of his day, he rejects them. He engages his compass so that he can lead his disciples and the world into a journey of transformation.
Faith makes wilderness survivable and ultimately transformative. Faith is not passive; it is an active stance in which we participate. We act in faith that the signals will be there for us; that there is a magnetic field that our compass can attune to. We listen, and see, and perceive with heightened attention and senses for the Holy Spirit, Inner Light, the Still Small Voice. This open attentive mindset is a form of prayer.
In what aspects or arenas of your life are you finding yourself beyond the borders of your maps? It is not a comfortable place, but it is the place to learn to pray and to be transformed. It is central to our Judeo-Christian tradition. Parker Palmer says it this way:
“Watch. Wait. Trust. If you become anxious, ask God to help your unbelief. . . Here in the field of your life the One who knows you better than you know yourself is always healing, creating, mending, and summoning. Relax. It is not all up to you. You are not alone. You are not even in charge.”
Lent invites us to find the boundaries of our maps and enter the wilderness in faith. And so we begin.