Spiritual Ruminations: Lenten paradoxes…

Lent already feels like it is too long. In the first few days, I’ve had words with people I love. I’ve lost my better sense of being “on top” of projects. I’ve committed the cardinal sin of spending 75% of my energy angst-ing before even getting out of bed in the morning.

Huh?

To balance the above craziness, I’ve been reading about non-violence and the Gospel.

This does seem a bit of a paradox.

What has become clear to me in these muddied waters is that the temptation to goodness without recognizing the suave subtleness of going askew is the litter on the road of Lent.

Ego, power, insecurities, satisfying what I want when I want it [by the way, I’m pretty sure I deserve “it”]…this is the stuff of the traditional first week of Lent Gospel—the temptation of Christ in the desert.

I really dislike this Gospel. A lot in fact. I’ve heard it so many times. It draws up a picture of a famished Jesus, bedraggled and crawling across the scorched earth, when in saunters Old Scratch with a basket of fabulous bread. Stoic Jesus rebukes him. Then he is taken to a parapet and encouraged to throw himself off—of course, Satan assures him [while simultaneously placing odds with his bookie]—the angels will protect you from harm. Stoic Jesus again dismisses him with Scripture. But we are not done. No, the evil snarky one drags the exhausted Christ to a mountain and reveals the kingdoms he can have if only [big hitch here] he worships him. Jesus has had enough and tells him to get out of Dodge. Jesus picks himself up, dusts himself off and returns to town…

It reads a bit like an old western silver star sheriff and bad guy scene.

If I can dare myself to go beyond these stereotyped images of years of Lent temptation Gospels, however, a deeper truth speaks to me.

It is the paradox of good and evil co-existing, pulling at my heartstrings everyday. Neither is clearly marked so it requires me setting out into the desert to sort out need from want. Ego from call. Plenty from humility. Listening from ranting. Genuine from painted on.

It is the desert experience of discernment that is most precious to me in this story. Jesus, too, needed to hash it out. In quiet and solitude.

Another paradox—when we finally quiet ourselves, we can first listen to the competing voices within.

While I greatly desire, in fact ache, for that solitude in which to stop and breathe, it scares the hell out of me. Will the voices assure me or seduce me? How am I being challenged? Am I up to accepting a life of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, love?

The simple answer is, I don’t know. But in the meantime, the desert is calling…

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