Date: February 21, 2023
By: Angela A.
Image by: Frederic Edwin Church
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil"(Luke 4:1-2)
Lent has always been a transformative season for me, so I have come to enter into this time for the liturgical year expecting God to do some sort of soul-shaping. Looking for some inspiration for this piece, I reflected upon my past Lenten experiences and flipped through my old devotionals. One thing was consistent: Lent has oftentimes felt like wandering in the wilderness.
When I was a child, Ash Wednesday was celebrated at school. I would "accidentally" wipe away the cross that marked my forehead while "fixing my hair" or "scratching an itch". As I grew older, I would intentionally choose to attend an evening Mass in order to avoid the stares or the comments from strangers that there was something on my head. I can recount journeying through the lush mountaintops and dry valleys of my prayer life, stressing about my Lenten fast, and struggling to perform charitable acts. I would feel guilty when I failed to observe the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving; and then would attempt to comfort myself by saying, "well, at least I tried. I can do better next year." For years, I continued this cycle and wondered if my meagre sacrifices even made a difference. I was stuck in the wilderness of going through empty motions.
Throughout my adulthood, I have been presented with many challenges, namely job instability, an ongoing infertility journey, and mental health struggles. The devil has repeatedly ensnared me with the temptation to believe in his lies: "You will never build a successful career or find purpose. Your infertility makes you broken as a women, and you will never experience the joys of motherhood. You and your husband will remain bound to your anxiety and depression."
These lies have led to the temptations of comparison and constantly desiring more. I even began to allow these lies to define my identity and worth. My journaling made it evident that the lies of the devil manifested most strongly during the Lenten season. I grew weary of facing the challenges that came before me and I no longer wanted to wander in the wilderness. However, I knew that I was not alone. In one of my devotionals, I wrote:
As I enter into the wilderness with You, I am bringing all my anxieties, doubts, and fears. Just as "[You], filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee" (Luke 4:14), so too do I want to walk out of the wilderness filled with the power of the Spirit, with a renewed sense of purpose. Jesus, I ask You to speak Your truth into my life. Help me to see beyond the lies of the enemy. Help me to know that my true identity and worth lie in who I was created to be - a beloved daughter of God.
While the lies that the devil spoke were loud, Jesus spoke His truths even louder. He provided for the needs of my family when we faced unemployment and has now blessed us with stable jobs. He has surrounded my husband and I with other couples who have also struggled with infertility. He has allowed me to experience the joys of spiritual motherhood through many nieces, nephews, and Godchildren. He has brought healing in our battle with anxiety and depression, showering us with His love and mercy.
Know that we do not wander in the wilderness alone. Jesus has gone before and walks with us. He invites us to enter into the wilderness to be healed and transformed. He invites us into the wilderness to unite our sufferings with His, so that we can be raised to new life and share in His resurrection.
Will you answer His invitation to enter in?