Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24, NRSV
I offer these reflections on God’s absence that is, paradoxically, God’s presence on the threshold of Lent. These 40 days of spare simplicity in preparation for the dark suffering of Good Friday and radiant joy of Easter, always begin with a return to the gospel story of Jesus’ 40 day sojourn into the barren wilderness of Sinai’s desert.
Jesus has just been baptized, and he has heard deep in his heart God’s Voice naming him Beloved. To claim this identity, to choose it for himself, to know it as the deepest core and truest essence of his human being, Jesus departs immediately into the desert. In this barren place he sifts through all the competing voices of ego and cultural expectations about what it means to be the Messiah. Beneath the raucous clamor it is God’s “still, small voice” he hears, God’s vision he embraces, God’s call of love rather than power that he chooses to follow.–Laurie Gordon, The God of Barren Landscapes: Absence and Presence in the Desert
When have you heard deep in your heart God’s Voice naming you Beloved?
What layers of competing voices and cultural expectations are you called to sift through this Lenten season to discover God’s “still, small voice” beneath?
Prayerfully dwell with Psalm 139. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?
Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
The song of Lent is return, return, return.
When we stop wherever we are for just a moment and listen, we can hear this ancient call in our souls to drawn near to the One who is fullest life. The season of Lent is this precisely: listening to the voice that is always present, but in a way and a place that we can truly hear.
This return call will lead you into the wilderness and it is where the wilderness will lead; return to God, return to what really matters, and return to who you really are.
It is the exodus and the prodigal and the forty-day desert fast. It is the hope of union and the letting go of what is not. It is a shedding layer by layer of the false gods we cling to, temptations toward comfort, and conveniences that numb us. Lent is not about feeling bad. It is an invitation to feel again! It is about getting in touch with the source of our lives. It is about removing the anesthesia and being willing to feel what is really real about being human, about being alive, about being beloved.
This Lenten season, we invite you to journey with us through the wilderness where God can speak to your heart. What, in this wilderness place, does God most desire to say? What do you most desire to hear?