This week’s readings deal with the first temptation and failure of Adam and Eve, and the temptation and refusal to collapse by Jesus. I don’t think it’s any real coincidence that both temptations have hunger at their root.
Adam and Eve lived in a place where all their needs were fully met. They had plenty of food, water, things to name and tend. Somehow, the serpent beguiles them into believing that what they have is not enough, that they are lacking, that they are missing something. And with that one bite, our eyes were opened to a new and hard world. It’s easy to lay blame at their feet, even now, thousands of years after this story was first shared. But the truth of the matter is that we are all a little bit Adam and a little bit Eve.
Jesus went into the desert to pray. He left without food, or water, or companionship, and went to a dry and desolate place. Jesus goes to abide in a place that is the total opposite of Eden. And there, Jesus was tempted mightily–by hunger, power, companionship…and somehow, finds the strength to resist. We can stand back, from 2000 years of perspective and wax christological about how Jesus maintained the fortitude, in the face of great hunger and deep loneliness, to resist the temptation of the Devil and the world. But the truth of the matter is that by virtue of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, we are all a little bit Jesus.
When we are confronted with our hungers–whether they are for actual nourishment, or company, or power, it’s easy to cave in. In so many ways, we are still so much like Adam and Eve, wondering what we are missing out on in our little part of the world. We see glossy, shiny, sexy, new, and flashy things dangled in front of us constantly. Over and over again, the voice of the serpent comes to our tender ears and insists that if we do this, or try that, or go here, or eat this that we will be like God. And it’s never a true thing. Our eyes are never opened to omniscience. We don’t grow bigger or stronger or faster or prettier. We just add another veil, another barrier to seeing the Kingdom all around us, to realizing that God’s hope and call for each of us isn’t about stuff and things–it’s about an all-consuming and all-providing relationship.
It’s a challenge to move ourselves from the garden into the desert. To stand uncomforted and uncovered, hungry and sometimes terribly alone, even next to Jesus, is a very hard thing to do. Realizing that even in our poverty, our deep hunger and nakedness is clothed in God’s immeasurable love and care for us is sometimes an impossible task. But simply holding on, for one more minute, holding out for the sun to break the clouds, waiting for the choirs of angels to come and minister to us, to stand in Jesus’ sandals for as long as we can stand it…that’s the task that life, and Lent place before us. And it’s a hard place to be.
My hope and prayer for you, as we being this first full week of Lent, is that you continue to stand in those precious sandals, and that as you are rough-shod for the journey, you continue to keep your eyes on Jesus, to watch the colors of the desert change, that you can call on the Holy Spirit to continue to empower and equip you for the journey to Easter. Last week, we were reminded that God hates nothing that God has made–so be comforted in that, lovelies, and keep walking.