Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Led or Driven?

Last week, I went to a gathering of clergy mentors at Sewanee, and, as part of our work, we spent time with first-year seminarians meditating on one of the lessons for this Sunday. Our group chose the gospel lesson (Matthew 4:1-11), and I had the privilege of hearing observations I never would have or could have made on my own.

One participant (I can't remember who) noted that Matthew tells of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted for forty days. Mark, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus was driven by the Spirit. This colleague then remarked how our Lenten journey, like that of Matthew's Jesus, is one of choice not compulsion. It turns out that Luke also tells of Jesus being led by the Spirit, so, perhaps the distinction belongs more to Mark than the others, but it got me thinking about Jesus' time in the wilderness. He was led there. He went there freely--not because God made him, not because it was expected of him, not because he had to, but because he was led there.

What about us? Are we being led into a wilderness journey, or are we being driven there? And I don't just mean during Lent. Many of us are in the wilderness all the time. Some of us are there by choice, and some of us have been driven there. Whether we're driven there by the Spirit or by a demon is another question.

In Lent 1, it's easy to focus on the wilderness as a place of temptation, and, for sure, it is. But wilderness--as a colleague that day in Sewanee pointed out--is also an opportunity for renewal. Some of us like being in the woods by ourselves for a few days. Some of us benefit from struggle, from having to piece our lives together day after day. Some of us are in that same wilderness but not by choice. The struggle is real, but we'd just assume leave it behind. I wonder, though, whether we might claim a voluntary expedition into wilderness this Lent whether we're being driven or led there on a daily basis.

Choose wilderness. Choose struggle. Choose to wrestle with who you are and who God has made you to be. Choose to expose yourself to temptation, but don't forget to cling to God's word and the Holy Spirit as the armament you need to withstand it. Choose to think of this journey as a choice--perhaps even if you're not the one making it. There is opportunity for renewal regardless of the source of our struggle, but our perspective has the power to open up that opportunity or close it. Choose Lent and let the Spirit of God lead you daily.

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