Today being three days into Lent, I’m drawn into the narrative of Jesus in the wilderness. We will talk about this account of Jesus’ temptations on Sunday as we visit Matthew 4. More than the focus on temptations, though, today the physical terrain calls to me. We have just left Jesus’ baptism. He has been nourished by the Holy Spirit in the Jordan waters; life is cultivated through the dazzling breath of God. The very air is fed with excitement and brilliance. Then, without time to glance around the neighborhood for any vibrancy, Jesus moves into inhospitable territory where pops of color are missing and cheerfulness fades. Against a backdrop of barren desert, the rough country of Jesus’ journey fills my thoughts with scorched struggles and parched strength. I don’t immediately feel dazzled by color in this story.
During the forty days of Lent, I’m hoping to reconnect with my Lord and Savior in simplistic ways that bring me into a focused joy and deeply personal replenishment. With days of multi-tasking pulling me into chaos, I’m working hard to re-order and rally. I need encouragement; I need uncomplicated! I want beauty and radiance! In the desert of my days, where is the hope I always expect? Where is the spring? Where is the color?!
Turning to the prophet Isaiah, I found the brilliance I was lacking. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19) There it is! The hope, the spring, the color! Just a few verses earlier, the prophet has mentioned the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt, and here he is promising deliverance from their Babylonian captivity. For me, as I look through the lens of the Resurrection, I hear the promise of God that didn’t stop with the Israelites. God’s promise of deliverance continues. I realize that this “new thing” God is about to do is more glorious than the cheerful yellow of daffodils, more dazzling than the brilliance of sunshine, and more hopeful than buds and blossoms on a snowy day.
Through scripture, through prayer, through fasting, this “new thing” will be like a path opening in the wilderness, like rivers running through the desert. How can I not perceive it? God will make a way!