On Sunday, Pastor Jim had a line in his sermon that I have been ruminating on ever since. When talking about this season of Lent, which requires us to embrace the wilderness of life instead of run from it, he said: “what happens if you remove your painkillers?” Specifically, he was talking about taking away whatever we use to distract us from our feelings of pain, grief, anger — the emotions we have learned are “bad”, or not worth encountering, or are too hard to truly embrace.
I decided to get off of social media and one of the reasons is precisely what Jim named. I have been distracting myself, telling myself I do not have time to feel because there is too much to get done. In our society, it is incredibly easy to allow ourselves to be occupied every second of every day. But the kingdom way is different. Jesus teaches us by example that solitude and stillness lead to greater relationship with God, self and others.
Like me, you may avoid the silence because of the demons that come out to play when you are quiet. Sometimes I am afraid I do not have the power to defeat them — they are too loud, too strong. But as we saw on Sunday in Luke 4:1-13, no matter what the tempter threw at Jesus in the wild, he refused to bow down to the desires of the earthly kingdom. And the truth is Jesus was never alone in this battle. Dripping from baptism, he was driven into the wilderness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was upheld by his community — the oneness of his union with the Father and Holy Spirit. Mark even says, “He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (1:14). There was a heavenly, wild host indeed.
Our challenge is to stop letting the fear of utter loneliness, anger, or grief keep us from stopping. We need seasons where we practice setting aside what helps us go numb — tv, computers, phones, food, taking care of everyone else, work — so we can feel deeply and actually encounter the living God. The good news is that God does not look away from our cries, our lament. The good news is that we walk the hard path together. We are fellow travelers, a band of angels — or wild animals if you prefer.
I hope and anticipate that this season will birth something new in your life as you tend to the hard-to-look-at ways you have been hurt and have hurt others. Remember: the journey is worth it, and we are here to listen, to offer care, to speak words of encouragement. If you need an objective third party, don’t forget about our wonderful Counseling Center. You are not alone.
Grace and peace,