Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
– Matthew 4:1 (NRSV)
by Ed Horstmann
My childhood home was the last house on a dead end road in a small town in upstate New York. Beyond our house the world, as seen through my young eyes, was a wilderness: dense forest occasionally opening up into meadows, followed by more forest. It was an exhilarating and sometimes frightening place for a young boy.
The wilderness can be desert, vast woodland, a mountain range, or even an experience of life that feels uncharted and unexplored. It may well be a harsh and threatening landscape, and yet can also be a place where we learn new skills, discover inner strength, and come to know the support of unseen hands. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were born in the wilderness spaces of the Middle East. It was into the wilderness that Jesus went before he taught and healed and loved the world with his fierce and tender truth. It was a place of testing and discernment: an experience of settling into his love for God and the world.
Throughout life we may experience the wilderness in many forms, sometimes as a beautiful though forbidding landscape, and sometimes as a journey of profound transition. The good news of the gospel is that throughout all of these experiences, God is with us and for us. In marvelous and unforeseen ways, we are strengthened to walk in faith, with love, and energized by hope.
God of steadfast love, we give you thanks that you are known to us in the wilderness journeys of our lives, and pray that you will guide and strengthen us as we navigate the uncharted regions of faith, hope and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.