A Lent reflection.
Second meditation – Lent 2023.
“Lord, I feel you in this place and I know you’re by my side, loving me even on these nights, when I’m caught in the middle” (Mark Hall)
We are all familiar with Jesus being led into the desert by the Spirit of God, and there facing the temptations from the devil. The text speaks of him being tired and hungry, just as Israel was when they were led from the parting of the red sea into the wilderness and there faced hunger and the absence of visible provision for them. Jesus lives out the Exodus pattern and so do we.
We refer to the wilderness as the middle of nowhere. In a country song that my boys love (they are country folk and farmers) the lyrics go: “the next time you are driving through the middle of nowhere, remember that to us, it’s the middle of somewhere.”
The wilderness may seem like a wasteland and a nowhere, but for us as Christians, what looks like “lack” and emptiness and desolation, is always a place where God provides. Even in the darkest of “nights” we know that God is by our side. The temptations of the wilderness are a reminder that we need to look to beyond what is apparent, to what God is doing. Faith is being sure of what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).
In Egypt the people had food and grazing for their cattle and houses to live in. In the wilderness, they had to live in tents and keep moving. But God was with them in the wilderness. It was there, where there was nothing in the worldly sense, that God gave them something of eternal value. There, somewhere in the middle of the wilderness between where they had come from and where they were going, God, built relationship with them. He gave them the Ten Commandments and the law, He taught them to worship in the tabernacle and they received an identity, they became a self-governing people. (under God but with their own leadership structure).
Caught between what they knew of their past and the uncertainty of the future, they hankered for the meat pots of Egypt (they seemed to forget the slavery that afforded them these meals). They were somewhere in the middle between rejoicing in their freedom and lamenting the loss of what they knew. Somewhere in the middle between thanking God and grumbling against him. Somewhere in the middle between trusting him and feeling abandoned.
When we read scripture, we always get to see the beginning and the end of the story. But the people lived in the middle, in the space where they had not worked it all out yet, in the space that they doubted, in between trusting God and testing God. That us where we live to, knowing where we have come form and confident in the crown of glory that will one day be ours, but caught in the middle between who we were and who God is making us to be.
As we reflect on our lives lived in the middle of nowhere and the middle of somewhere, as we face the dark night of the soul, as we live with needs and with desires and the willingness to sacrifice the same for the sake of our salvation; may God remind us that he is with us, that we do not live on bread alone, that we must worship him only and that we must not put him to the test, but accept the tests of our lives. Our lives in the wilderness of our existence are lived between the example of the Israelites and the example of Jesus. Somewhere in the middle between what we know God wants of us and what we can grasp, at any point in time.
To be content is to accept that you are in the middle, and God is with and you at work in you. You live in between the freedom that Christ has won for you the crown of Glory you will receive. You live in the now but not yet. Be content! Accept the place that you are in so that God can move you to where he is taking you to be.
And so, we pray. Lord Jesus, you showed us by example that the way to please God is through obedience. Teach us to be content! Accepting that you are at work in our lives even when we cannot see it. Teach us to call on you when we are concerned about our earthly needs, teach us to trust you for our daily bread, forgive us when we doubt and may our doubts and fears lead us to surrender, to you.
A Lent reflection.