It is snowing, again, here at this old house. We got quite a dump at the beginning of the week as well, one of those storms where an inch was predicted but ended up breaking a record for snowfall for that day. Here at this old house, we had nearly a foot! This current storm is supposed to bring us a lot but Mother Nature is not always predictable. We are no where close to what Boston has but we have a lot more snow right now than the Sierra’s do! Relatives in California say the drought there is scary. Municipalities are running out of water and are having to truck it in, with no relief in sight. The southwest corner of Colorado is also in a drought. It helps me understand what may have caused the Pueblo people of the Mesa Verde area to abandon their homes: a lack of rainfall for several years in a row equals death.
It is interesting to think of all of this in light of tomorrow’s Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Lent: Mark 1: 9-15–
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
I have been to the Judean wilderness and it is not the deserts we think of here in the United States. The deserts here are, for the most part, lovely in their own way, with flora and fauna that inspire great metaphors. In the Judean wilderness, the rocks have trouble surviving! Truly, nothing grows there except around the oases, which are few and far between. The Dead Sea is the symbol of that wilderness, a body of water that is lifeless.
I find it fascinating that Jesus goes into that place of barren death immediately after he hears God pronounce him “the Beloved.” That hardly seems like a way to learn about and embrace one’s belovedness. Yet, it is in that wilderness that the essence of life itself and, particularly, our individual life, is revealed. When water, food and shelter are at a premium, one quickly becomes aware of the difference between needs and wants. When there is nothing to distract me from myself, I come face-to-face with my true self, for good and for ill.
At the end of this forty day time of fasting in a desolate place, Jesus is at his strongest, more able to counter the derailing attacks Satan tries to use on him. Perhaps one definition of temptation might be anything that attempts to side-track us from who God created us to be, from our own belovedness as God’s children, from taking the true path and not a “short-cut” that ends up being a trap.
When we understand deeply our status as God’s beloved children, when we aren’t dependent on the props of life to shore up a low-self esteem, when we can function more out of our true self and not from our false self, we are less likely to succumb to tempting short-cuts and sidetracks. As Isaiah 35: 1-2 promises,
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
Or as the prophet says earlier, in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow:” a good metaphor as I watch the snow piling up outside, bringing the promise of water for the future.