Lent = subtract things from my life in order for God to do new things.
The wilderness, Jesus found, was an important place of subtraction. Evidently the Father knew there were things in Jesus’ humanity that needed subtraction, purification, preparation for the new things Jesus was about to walk in.
Jesus was led into this wilderness, not forced or coerced. “He was taken by the Spirit from the Jordan into the lonely ordeal of testing by the accuser for forty days.” Luke 4:2
He was taken there on the heels of his baptism and hearing of God’s great delight in him. The Wilderness. What a strange place to end up after a hearing a word from God like that.
Or is it?
Maybe God knows best, and He knows how prone our humanity is to rely on the false self. Maybe He knows what we are about to experience in the big world out there after a spiritual high. And maybe He knows that given to our own devices, it may not end up well.
So he leads us into the wilderness where the stakes are not as high. If we falter here, only His eyes see it, and He can lovingly get us back on track. But if we presumptuously bypass the wilderness and go our own way, in our own time, all eyes see our pride and we are forced to deal with humiliation and shame.
In the third test, Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple (highest place) and tried to get him to jump down where angels would save him. However, Jesus didn’t fall for the opportunity to show off and gain a following in a sensational way. This would have drawn a crowd, drawn attention to himself, and drawn him away from the cross.
Instead, He chose the discipline of secrecy. He lived and moved out of the limelight, eager to get away to be alone with God. Even His post resurrection sightings were very limited and low key. He was secure in His true self “I am the Father’s beloved.” He detached from the false self “I am what other people say and think about me.”
What is your pinnacle? The places you are tempted to draw attention to yourself in order to gain love from God and others? Ministry and service can be a form of self promotion. Social media platforms and materialism seek to put us in bondage.
We are invited into the wilderness season of Lent where subtraction, if we let it, happens and God changes us. In the hidden places of surrender where no one sees the wrestling. In the quiet, secret moments away from the crowds, which is the true place of transformation.
Yes it is lonely. But seasons of loneliness are good for the soul. We come out more confident in God’s love for us and we come out able to withstand the pull of other voices demanding us to be someone we are not.