Dr. Scott Black Johnston: In the Desert

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.' And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

-Mark 1:9-13

Have you seen the commercial where four guys in a truck keep driving until they get no bars for their cell phones (a reverse of the old Verizon "Can you hear me now?" ads)?

As Christians who swim in this culture, we all need this experience. We all need time in the desert-time in a place where our Blackberries and iPhones will not get a signal, and we can listen for the voice of God.

The Christian version of "driving until you get no signal" has been around for almost 2000 years. We call it Lent. It is modeled after Jesus' 40 days in the desert. It is still a difficult journey (especially for those of us who are addicted to a steady, intravenous stream of information). Those brave enough to take a 40-day spiritual hike into the wilderness (tuning out, paring back and refocusing) will be lashed by winds, baked by the sun and tempted by the devil to give it all up for comfort.

You can lose part of yourself in the desert. Of course, that is exactly what we need: a few key losses-letting go of ceaseless information gobbling, longstanding resentments and destructive dreams; refusing to care about the wrong things, the stupid things, the things that really don't matter. Then, when the desert is done with us, we just might find ourselves with more capacity to care about the things that do matter-that matter more than anything else!


A Prayer for the Beginning of Lent

Holy God, whose Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness, drive me there, too! Take me on a sacred journey this Lent, that I might find those things that truly nourish and will sustain me forever. This I pray, in the name of my baptized Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

[Taken with permission from Scott's blog, "Sharp About Your Prayers."Originally posted 2/22/12]