What is our wilderness?

I am reading in Luke 4 about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  He fasted for 40 days, and then was tempted by Satan to seek to meet his own needs and pursue his own glory rather than the Father’s.  Of course, before this Jesus was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1:  “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert…”)

No doubt this experience in the desert trained Jesus and steeled him in several ways.  First, he learned to depend on and be led by the Holy Spirit.  Of course many bible readers assume that Jesus did miracles and knew secrets simply because he was God.  While he certainly was fully God, he could not experience full humanity unless his divinity was shielded somehow.  After all, God doesn’t need water, food, sleep, etc., and is all-knowing.  And yet Jesus both had these needs and at one point admits he doesn’t know something (the hour of his return).  I believe when Philippians 2 says that Jesus “emptied himself,” that part of what that means is that he voluntarily set aside the use of his divine attributes so that he could experience full humanity.  Theologians call this the “kenosis” of Christ (“kenosis” is Greek for “an emptying”).  So how did Jesus do miracles and know secrets?  The same way we participate with God in doing them: by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the wilderness he learned how to do this.

Also in the wilderness he no doubt committed himself to his mission.  He surrendered desires to have his own way or to self-direct his life.  He steeled himself for what lay ahead.  As a result, when Satan tempted him with all the kingdoms of the world, he was ready to respond with “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”  About three years later when he is faced with the cross, he had the strength to say to his Father, “Not my will, by your will.”

We’ve all read about primitive cultures who have a “coming of age” experience, particularly for young men, where they are sent off on a quest by themselves for an extended period of time.   When (if?) they come back, they are a man.  They have been tested and have passed whatever test the wilderness and their own isolation had for them.  They had time to reflect on their purposes and values, and to make a decision about the basic direction of their lives.  Of course, becoming a “man” (I include the ladies in that) is not quite that simple, but I believe this step is very significant, especially in terms of the individual’s identity.  We often act like a “man” simply because we believe we are one.

So, in our society or in our churches, what is our wilderness?  What test do we face that grows us up and leads us to commitment and that steeling that Jesus experienced?  I suppose going off to college or going out and getting that first job and apartment is a bit like this.  But for most of us, those experiences don’t quite do it.  They are often too easy, too ordinary, and too communal.  I think the wilderness must be difficult, extraordinary, and must be faced alone with the Lord.

For those of us who don’t live in a culture which sends young adults out into the wilderness, does the Lord lead us into the wilderness in some other way?  What was/is my wilderness?  Should I intentionally create a wilderness experience for my girls when they turn 16 or 18 or 21?  I know have a few readers out there.  Did you have a wilderness experience?


The insanity of Obama’s treatment of enemy combatants

This is the best piece I’ve seen giving a Constitutional and historical critique of Obama’s policy of using the civilian justice system to prosecute enemy combatants (terrorists).

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