Mark 1:9-13 (NRSV)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The River might fill the heart and that’s important, but it’s The Wilderness that brings wisdom. I mean, I’d love it if spiritual wisdom was distributed in the Personal Growth section at Barnes and Noble but that’s just not the way it goes. It’s always been found in The Wilderness. Because if we look at the order of things – at The River Jesus is baptized and called God’s beloved, (before he even does anything cool or enlightened or special by the way) after which he’s cast into The Wilderness for a good long while. And it’s only THEN that he begins teaching and healing. See, Jesus doesn’t begin teaching and healing until after he’s gone through 40 days of Satan, wild beasts and angels. So why do I think my Wilderness to be a personal failure if Jesus’ Wilderness gave him what was needed to heal and to teach?
– Nadia Bolz-Weber in her blog Sarcastic Lutheran
In our culture of constant access and nonstop media, nothing feels more like a curse from God than time in the wilderness. To be obscure, to be off the beaten path, to be in the wilderness feels like abandonment. It seems more like exile than a vacation. To be so far off of everyone’s radar that the world might forget about us for a while? That’s almost akin to death…[But] far from being punishment, judgment, or a curse, the wilderness is a gift. It’s where we can experience the primal delight of being fully known and delighted in by God. – Jonathan Martin, Prototype
He [John the Baptist] is in the wilderness. Obviously because he finds these surroundings appropriate to his life- the parched solitude, the endless spaces, where no one can feel at home. Inevitably we keep discovering that we too are in the wilderness, the wilderness of a great city, the wilderness of isolation, a wilderness that seems to have no center, a wilderness we cannot feel at home in. -Karl Rahner
Deprivation is neither the focus nor the final word of the wilderness. As the honey-eating John knew, the desert offers its own delights. What the wilderness gives us is a path that helps us perceive where our true treasure lies. And does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.
– Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas
Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all.
-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
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