The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness 40 days being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals and the angels were ministering to him.
(Mark Chapter 1. 12-13)
This is such a familiar story for many of us that it can be quite tricky to notice it. After his baptism and before beginning his ministry, Jesus spent time in the wilderness where Satan tempted him. But look how he got from baptism to wilderness. I’d never noticed that word ‘drove’ before, and it brought me up short. Drove. It suggests compulsion, being transported reluctantly - a wilderness in the company of Satan is not a destination of choice.
For many of us this has been a wilderness year of cancellations, disappointments and boredom. It’s unknown territory where we have been as isolated, and maybe as solitary, as Christ was in his wilderness. And, like Jesus, we did not choose this, but, like him, we are here. So this week, at the start of Lent, let’s take a few moments to stop and look around at our particular wildernesses. It’s unfamiliar, unpredictable, wild, not calculated or planned, which can be threatening. But it’s also freeing and gloriously quiet. In the wilderness there is time to observe things. Remember how much we all noticed the spring in 2020? Remember how clearly we heard the birdsong, saw the sky? Maybe being in a wilderness isn’t all bad?
There are wild animals in the wilderness but we don’t have to pay attention to them. Take a moment to have a look at yours. Mine tend to be herds of What-ifs and swarms of Maybees but I don’t have to listen to them, just as Jesus didn’t have to listen to Satan or the animals. Instead, the angels ministered to him and we can look out for them instead. Sometimes their ministry is a call from a friend, a smile from a neighbour, a cup of tea in a comfortable chair. This week please find a few breaths to look at your wilderness and consider the freedom you might find there. Consider too who is ministering to you and accept their efforts with gratitude.
Dear Lord, help me to accept where I am and to remember that you have placed me here and accompany me. Grant me the grace to notice those who minister to me this week and the energy to minister to others. Amen.