Where will love take us during this season of Lent? Love led Jesus to a wilderness - to a barren place where he faced the fullness of his humanity. He was hungry. He was tired. He was tested. Jesus' wilderness was the place of preparation for ministry. It was where he prepared to set out on his task of carrying God's love to the world.
Before he went into the wilderness, God marked Jesus as a beloved Son and affirmed Jesus' role in God's plan. Then the Spirit led him to the barren place. Barren places are hard places to be. They are dry, flat, and uncomfortable. While they may be places for preparation and purification, they aren't easy places to dwell. We sense from scripture that Jesus struggled and became weary, and then the devil himself shows up. In this barren space, Jesus learned the cost of surrendering to God's will.
The Spirit sometimes leads us to a barren place. We enter that place for our own time of purification and preparation. We do this because God also calls us "beloved." In these places, we allow God to hold us in love and pour out devotion upon our lives just as he did for Jesus.
Sometimes it is not the Spirit but circumstances that lead us to the wilderness. Our recent days have been marked with barrenness, and we have had to discern God's presence. We have endured a global pandemic, political division, and unrest. Our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia are suffering under the reality of war. Fear, doubt, loneliness, and uncertainty surround us.
The work of Lent is to discover that even in the barren places we can be tempted and loved at the same time. We can discover that our thirst is only quenched by living water. The wilderness teaches us that hurting and hoping go hand in hand. This is what love does for us. This is how God's holy love becomes real for us.
The question for us is how will we allow the barren places to shape us. Will we give into the allure of a tempting rescue, or will we sit and wait on God? Will we accept that God has created us and accepts us in all of our humanity with a complete and unconditional love? Sit with God, and allow the holy love of God to remind you that you are God's beloved child.