Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Luke 13:34
Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Matthew 6:28-9
We’re waist-deep into Lent now, slogging through this dry and
dusty wilderness. In the beginning there
was a burst of buzz about it, but now this journey, started with a sense of
vision and purpose, has somehow morphed into what feels like aimless
Forty days really is a long time for our restless hearts to
hold steady. The anxious disciples
couldn’t stay awake and pray for even a few short hours, so how can we expect any better from our own weary, prone-to-wander souls?
For forty days, though, Jesus stayed; forty days of peeling back
and grinding down until his real identity shone through like a diamond in the
For forty years the Israelites wandered; forty years of stooping to gather manna day-in and day-out.
As I looked through Stanley Spencer’s beautiful series of paintings on Christ in the Wilderness I realized that so many of the images Jesus used later in his ministry must have originated from his time in the wilderness. As he waited, fasting and praying, Jesus watched and observed the foxes and wolves, the flitting birds, the dancing flowers and as he spoke he would return to these images again and again. Images gained while waiting there in that seemingly empty place, images gathered like manna in the desert.
This gives me hope as I wander my own way through these last tearful days of winter. Maybe these long, dry days are actually filled with the things that will sustain me in the days ahead. Maybe gathering the bread that falls daily is enough to change everything, not only because it fills me today, but because of the way these repeated gestures, the bending and gathering, shape my soul.
Time spent in the wilderness of Lent, the wilderness of
life, shapes us as we shed, ever so slowly, that which encumbers. The eyes
of our hearts are awakened to the small stones, the crumbs of vision that we
will carry with us when we emerge from these dark and empty days, when we come forth, living, like One rising from a tomb.
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