The Wilderness and The Accuser
For centuries, Christians have kept the season of Lent as both a spiritual practice leading up to Holy Week and Easter and also as a symbolic journey with Jesus into the wilderness for 40 Days.
The Gospels tell the story of Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he was "tested" or prepared for his ministry. The most likely location for this is in the desolate Judean hills not far out of Jericho.
I've walked in that wilderness, and it's formidable enough even now, but it must have been something in Jesus' day.
The Scripture tells us that Jesus fasted and prayed during his time alone, but that he was also joined by a sinister character: the Satan or the "Accuser."
The Accuser whispers temptations into Jesus' ear, inviting him to escape his suffering, pridefully show his power, and reveal himself to the world as the Christ in triumph and conquest. but Jesus resists, and the voice of the Accuser fades away.
I don't know about you, but the accusing voice in my head that whispers into my ear, not only shows up when I'm weary and vulnerable, but it also sounds a lot like my own voice.
The Accuser is always on the job, and most of us tend to make the Accuser's job all too easy, especially when we are struggling or suffering.
Author John Pavlovitz recently wrote about Jesus' time in the wilderness, and had this to say:
The account of Jesus' being tested speaks to our vulnerability, to our tendency to listen to the voices of critique and condemnation, and to the power of what we choose to believe even in the moments when belief seems impossible.
In other words, when we hear the voice of the Accuser, either calling us out on our failures or urging us to take the short and self-destructive path to what the world calls success, the temptation to believe the voice is both powerful and alluring.
Lately, my own accusing voice has been working overtime.
And every single day I have a choice when it comes to that accusing voice: Believe it or not.
[For many of us Gen-X'ers out there, that last line conjures up memories of the old Ripley's Believe It Or Not TV show, and can't be read without hearing Jack Palance's voice rasping those very words in a semi-sinister manner.]
But it does come down to that very notion. I can choose to believe what the accusing voice tells me about myself, or tempts me to do when I am feeling desperate... Or, I can choose to believe something altogether different.
I can choose to believe that I am not defined by the Accuser---I'm defined by the One who went into the wilderness to face the Accuser and walked away transformed and ready to save the world.
Which he did, by demonstrating what it looks like when God gets what God wants, the world is made right, and love wins over indifference, violence, hatred, and death.
So in this wilderness journey of Lent, may you discover a new voice that speaks love, mercy, forgiveness, and hope into your life. May you realize that voice is the voice of the universal and eternal Christ who is all around you and in you.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.