In the WildernessLent 1; Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus fasted in the wilderness
at the beginning of his ministry.
he was led up by the Spirit
to be tempted by the devil –
holy and diabolical collaboration?
He rejected programs for happiness
based on instinctual needs
for security, esteem, power –
so writes Thomas Keating,
a wise one of the faith.
I look back at my ministry
from retirement, that genteel wilderness.
Where has the Spirit led me
into tempting and testing
in harsh and lonely lands?
Security as a program for happiness?
My placements were often taxing,
but paid part-time. Survival
seemed to demand extra work –
a fast from needed rest.
Exhaustion served security,
rebuilding a home for retirement.
Was that a temptation,
or delayed self-care?
As for esteem, yes, I know,
for me that promises happiness,
false if it becomes a craving,
but affirmation is a connection,
a gift gratefully received,
and sometimes public esteem
enabled pursuit of vocation.
Jesus had his disciples
who affirmed his identity,
the voice of God that spoke
of love and listening.
Did I desire power?
I lamented its lack,
my failure to make a difference.
I valued cooperation,
not dominance or manipulation,
but had no vision for effective change,
only for reflection and imagination.
I claimed time for the gifts
of poetry and performance,
and so exercised my power,
gained supportive esteem,
made bread for survival.
Yes, it was for the kingdom,
but also for me, for whatever growth
I could wring from thin, dry earth.
How to defeat temptation?
Jesus answered with Scripture verses,
spoken with appropriate authority.
The devil quoted Scripture,
but politely accepted that defence.
I write both questions and insights,
exploring the meaning, naming
the wilderness and temptations.
Do honest, painful words
keep the tempting shadow at bay,
or perhaps attempt detente?
After dialogue with the devil,
if I maintain some integrity,
will the wilderness flare
with Spirit flame as angels stoop?
Barbara Messner 22/02/2023
Image address: https://scripturemuse.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/pexels-photo-259526.jpeg?w=1024
5 thoughts on “In the Wilderness”
Scary to me in retirement as looking the devil in their face.
Genteel and polite devils? All the more seductive for that?
Most certainly. the ones on the inside and the ones on the inside of others.
I so admire the courageous transparency of your questioning, Barb. This is beautiful and it slices deep.
Thanks so much Eric. Tears in my eyes at that recognition, that sense of sharing.