First Sunday in Lent: Into the Wilderness

First Sunday in Lent: Into the Wilderness
Taung Srey, Torl Kok project, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Art submitted by Global Missionary Clara Biswas. From the 2021 Prayer Calendar.

Mark 1:12-13

“Immediately the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.”

There came a point in my life when I noticed a gnawing feeling that something was not right. The growing and persistent nagging coming from deep inside finally drove me to quit my job and led me to a meditation center in the wilderness of Massachusetts for a ten-day silent retreat. I remember the strong urge to go. It was something I could no longer ignore. I wanted to do it. I had to do it. But inside I was scared and not quite willing to admit my fears of not knowing where this would lead.

Pulling into the center’s parking lot…turning off the car engine…sitting there in silence…I hesitated, feeling unsure, almost nauseous. Did I really want to make this serious commitment to the work that was going to be asked of me? Was I ready to go into the wilderness to face my demons?

As I walked slowly, prayerfully toward the building, I knew there was no turning back. For the next ten days I sat in silence with over a hundred other beings. We sat together, but so alone in that silence, left to our own sacred work and struggles. We sat day after day in solitude with our metaphorical demons, tested in every way — hunger from the fasting, bodily pain from the long hours sitting in one position, and weariness from wrestling with the messy mind. There were times I wanted to pick up and leave. Nothing physically stopped me from going, yet something stronger than myself was holding and sustaining me there.

What was revealed in those ten days and is still being revealed is a truth that God’s help is available when I am willing to acknowledge it. Through a willingness to expose my vulnerability, I was uplifted in the roughest of times not knowing why or how. This was a preparation and toughening for a ministry in the world that was to follow.

Prayer and praxis cannot be separated. Jesus is the master and model for us to follow. Like Jesus, my ten days in the wilderness marked the beginning of my ministry. A ministry always sustained by the deep understanding of God’s faithfulness ever abiding in sacred trust.

Prayer: Faithful and Uplifting God, in the midst of our daily trials, may we always trust in your ministry of angels to surround and sustain us, invisible yet real. Amen.

Beth Vanoli is a deaconess candidate in the West Ohio Conference.

Posted or updated: 2/18/2021 12:00:00 AM