Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there.
Right after his glorious confirmation, right after being assured of his place and purpose—“This is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased”—Jesus faces the wilderness. Great assurance, followed by great difficulty. Is it possible we heard wrong our calling? Have we strayed from the path? Surely God does not mean for the way to be so challenging to follow.
We are called to love and serve our neighbor, and at our best we long to rise to the challenges, to transform all the spaces we inhabit into places to practice love. We want to imagine ourselves as among those who (usually) say yes faithfully. Yet here we are, abandoned again in the wilderness. Nothing seems to go smoothly. The money does not flow to support our efforts. People do not embrace us. Healing mercies do not pour through us. The labor is unending and the rewards are scarce. Should it not be easier to walk in the light of love?
We imagine lighter loads that would be more satisfying and sure. Other job descriptions promise success and power and plenty. We imagine basking in appreciation and achievement. We succumb to the temptation to do more, be more, have more. Wilderness strips us down and reveals our true motivation. Temptation clarifies our intention to keep first things first: Love God, love one another, love God, love one another, love God.
Tempt me away from doing, being or having anything that keeps me from you.