Forty Days in the Desert

We are now almost three weeks into this 40-day Lenten season. The 40 days is meant to call to our minds the 40 days that Jesus fasted and was tempted in the desert.

I keep coming back to this image of the desert, which I think is a good one for us during this Lenten period. In the desert, the roots of plants must grow deeper in search of life-giving water. In the desert we need to look underneath the dry, dusty exterior, to see signs of life hidden below the surface.

Lent invites us into the desert, to a place where we can grow in understanding of who we are. In the words of a Ruth Burgess poem (The Desert Waits), “The desert always waits, ready to let us know who we are – the place of self-discovery.

That is not always easy. As Burgess notes, “we fear, and rightly, the loneliness and emptiness and harshness.” If we go into the desert, we are not quite sure what we will find, and we may find some things that are not easy to look at. But the journey into the desert is not one we are asked to take alone. God is there with us, and, when we need it, God will send his angels to comfort us.

We could spend our Lent just doing the easy, “surface” things – skipping a meal here or there, putting a few extra dollars in the collection plate, and the like. Or, we could accept the invitation to burrow down deep with God. To enter into that desert and see what it would look like to come out the other side.


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