“The wilderness.”  I always had a hard time picturing the wilderness.  You hear about Jesus being tempted in “the wilderness” at the beginning of Lent.  Spending 40 days out there “tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:13)

Before traveling to the Holy Land, I just couldn’t get at what that really meant.  Yes, it was a spiritual journey for Jesus.  And Jesus was a flesh and blood human being, of course.  What would this experience have been like for him physically?  Where exactly was Jesus when he faced temptation right after being baptized and before beginning his ministry in Galilee?

As we stood on top of the Mount of Olives and looked beyond, our guide that day (Jared) shared that he envisions this scene (pictured above) as the spot where Moses came out of the wilderness.  Jared is Jewish and pausing for a second said, “Maybe if you look out here, you can picture Jesus in the wilderness.”

I had a visceral response taking Jared’s question to heart and stood on the Mount of Olives, studying the landscape.  This is it I thought.  This is the place where Jesus could have spent those 40 days–off in those desolate mountains in the distance.  The story became more real.  This is the wilderness.

On our spiritual journeys, we have moments of being on mountains and in valleys.  Ups and downs.  Highs and lows  On Sundays, we share joys and concerns for a reason–sometimes we feel one more than the other.  We may even feel like we’re stuck in the wilderness from time to time.  After another school shooting (this time in Parkland, Florida, with 17 people dying), one has to wonder if we’re in the wilderness as a country.  This was the 18th school shooting so far in 2018 alone.

The wilderness is real.  That feeling of being out there facing exceptionally hard things is real.  And God is with us, even and especially now.

(This Week’s Thoughts 2.15.18)