Driven to the Wilderness
This is where I get down to the bare bones of my theme of letting go. Whether I live by the illusion of power and control or not, I finally am confronted with the reality that I am not in control. I am driven to the place I fear the most.
It is in the wilderness that I am confronted with my fear of scarcity. As we experienced this past week, it was hard to read about the people who didn’t have enough electricity … enough heat … enough water … enough food to get through. If the truth were told, my family had no reason to be afraid. We did not suffer like so many have suffered in this winter storm, but I have to admit that the fear of scarcity arose at least once during our forced isolation.
In the wilderness, I am confronted with the fear of not being enough. Clergy routinely have to come to terms with our own egos and ego needs. Speaking for myself, I fear not being available enough even as I heal from surgery. Will someone need me and be disappointed that I can’t be more available to them. Will people be upset that I am not preaching for a month … or will they think me irrelevant after hearing some really great sermons (I know I can say this because Steve Buchele is a good friend of mine and he knows how much I love hearing him preach).
Will I be enough as a husband … a father … a grandfather? We try to balance family in with the many demands outside the home, but are we really doing a good job?
The fears are real for so many of us as we confront the reality that we live in a world that expects productivity and evidence of our work. Our worth is tied to that productivity and work. There is no place for us to let go of our need to be useful, which means that things such as prayer, meditation, and silence are suspect because they don’t enhance the bottom line … they are thought to be distractions that take away from our work. Even in religious life, they don’t necessarily bring more people or money into the church.
In the wilderness, we are confronted with the fear that we will not have enough power … we will not be high enough on the food chain. I once had a friend who displayed a sign on his office door: “Every morning in the savanna, the leopard gets up and starts running to find its food. And every morning in the savanna, the gazelle wakes up and starts running to keep from being the food. So whether you are the predator or the prey, it is a good idea to wake up and start running.”
It was good humor, but it does belie the fear deep within us that standing still is not an option. We fear the loss of power or prestige or privilege, so we just keep moving.
But it is in that wilderness where Jesus reminds us what it means to face those fears head on and choose instead the ways of God. This is the thin place … the liminal space … where we meet God. Lent is the time for us to take a deep breath … to lower our anxiety as we confront our fears … and in that moment, just perhaps, we will let go and let God be God.
Lord, be with us as we encounter our fears and move through those fears to the place of letting go. In this moment, give us the calm assurance that you will be our God. Amen.