How’s Lent going so far for you? If you’ve chosen to give something up, where have you felt new freedom? Where have you felt desperation?
What I’ve chosen to give up has to do with helping me come present to God’s invitations in each moment. I have felt more alert and alive at times. I’ve also felt frustrated as I realize how often I’m tempted to leave the moment in which I find myself, either because I’m overwhelmed or because it demands something from me that I’m not sure I have.
Lent is a time of resisting and returning. In fasting or abstaining, we actively resist temptation. In prayer and confession, we return to God to satisfy our deep longings.
In Lent: A Season of Returning, Ruth Haley Barton writes that the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness correspond to the common human temptations that we all face. Below are my own words and experiences, inspired by reading her thoughts.
1. To provide for yourself, by yourself. When Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread, he is being tempted to see himself as his own sustainer and provider, instead of God. I have spent my whole life trying to use my gifts and my personality to control the outcomes of my life. In American culture, we’re taught, “You’re on your own!” This one has a particularly strong grasp on me.
2. To grasp for control. When Jesus is tempted to take charge of “all the kingdoms of the world,” Satan is implying that with control comes security. “It will all be yours,” he purrs. Jesus understands that security, paradoxically, only comes by giving up control to God. So he responds, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” It’s humbling to see that when I demand to be in control, I’m demanding to be worshiped.
3. To manipulate God. When Jesus is tempted to jump off of the temple just to see if God will rescue him, Satan is trying to get Jesus to manipulate God. Have you ever done this? I have. Sometimes I push past my limits and then demand that God give me the strength to continue. When I ask God to give me fuel to continue a journey which God never invited me to begin, I’m putting God to the test.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Luke 4:1-2
Lent is a time that exposes us. Which temptation feels most alluring to you these days?