From Pauses for Pentecost
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Have you noticed that everything we are able to do competently in this life requires hidden preparation? Think of the pianist playing a piece of music beautifully, the surgeon successfully performing a delicate operation, the athlete breaking a long-standing record, the speaker delivering an inspiring talk, the teacher giving an outstanding lesson, or the plumber effectively fixing a blocked drain. All these people, in order to do their tasks well, have put in many hours of practice and learning that no one sees. Living life well on-the-spot always requires off-the-spot preparation.
We see the Holy Spirit involved in this same dynamic in the story of Jesus’s life. Before the curtains open on Jesus’s messianic ministry, the Spirit leads him into the desert. There Jesus wrestles with and overcomes three crucial temptations with regard to the shape of his public ministry. No one witnesses these behind-the-scenes moments in his life. They take place completely out of the public eye. His on-the-spot ministry with others is backed by this off-the-spot engagement with God in the solitude of the desert.
Is the Holy Spirit leading you into the “desert”? How is the Spirit working to better prepare you for your everyday walk with Jesus? It is highly unlikely that your desert experience will involve forty days in an actual geographical desert. But it may be a day alone at a nearby retreat center, a time of personal Bible study on your own, or a weekend away in the mountains. Whatever shape your desert-solitude takes, you can be sure that the Holy Spirit will be present, preparing your heart and mind for a more powerful witness in the public sphere. This is what Easter people throughout the ages have come to know. The desert is the training ground of the Holy Spirit for those who want to be faithful, effective, and competent in the rest of their lives.
Carve out a desert moment of solitude today. Allow it to be a time when you can simply be alone with God and yourself. It doesn’t need to be long; between ten and fifteen minutes will be enough.