For Lent today…
I am meditating on Jesus’ baptism and soul-struggles in the wilderness temptation he faced.
At every turn, his Accuser challenged him to doubt his Divine blessing (“This is my Beloved Child, in whom I am well-pleased” is the message proclaimed at his baptism.) This was the Gift given as he turned to his wilderness.
Trusting this — throughout his work and under increasingly escalated disappointment and attack — ultimately allowed Jesus to face his destiny, and it will allow us to face ours. Along the way, we will be challenged to doubt and to test, to rely solely on material life, and to secure ourselves through Ego’s accomplishment. That can mean falling prey to the ideas of Kingdom-building that rely on coercion and empire. It can mean confusing others’ approval, ever limited by social prejudices, with God’s. It can also mean falling prey to a belief that we are somehow more or differently blessed than any other child of God (and to the sins that such manifest destiny has often led us).
Lent is often cast as being about struggle. Divinely ordained struggle. We can endlessly struggle with ourselves, with others, with God. Perhaps the greatest struggle-opportunity of all is giving up struggle.
This might be a fresh way of seeing Jesus’ accomplishments in the wilderness. Yes, it looks like victory born of struggle, but it might bear more fruit in us if we lift up a different vision. He gives us the first larger-than-life signal that his victory would be nonviolent, and “gained” not by a win but by a surrender. Not a surrender to temptation, but a surrender to the consequences of an Emptying proclaimed in a Philippians 2 hymn. Jesus surrendered to the truth of his Divine oneness, and to the world’s ideas of loss and failure, even as he knew them to be false.
One of the great spiritual needs of our day is for LGBT Christians to give up the struggle for others’ approval, and to surrender into the delight of our Divine blessing. We are part of the amazing diversity of style and love and family and life which has always existed and has been ever-evolving. In many past eras, same-sex love and intimacy have been accepted by some and rejected by others.
The tiny number of Christian scriptures which have become Accusers’ weapons do not speak for the God of the universe who continues to speak timeless truths of blessing. They represent the struggles of the past, as our ancestors gave voice to their fear and ideals, their best attempts to protect themselves by condemning others and blaming others for the challenges of their day. They need not sow enmity for today. Overturning their hold on today’s people of faith is a task which a table-turning Jesus relishes… but not for the sake of endless enmity and divisiveness about sexual diversity. No. For the sake, maybe, of forming a new people who know that abiding as the Temple of Spirit is God’s will for all of us.
I do not mean to advocate a political passivity in our wilderness, but to suggest that living in increased conditions of peace and prosperity will only come when are able to “love from the center of who we are.” To work hard and witness – and even cause some trouble now and again — from that deep and unconditioned place. And to join Jesus in disbelieving the Accuser’s lies and pictures of success that would verify or validate our Divine blessing.
May the testing of this life lead us always to reject the struggles which are false, alienating and divisive. May we, with Spirit’s blessing, recognize and live into our Divine birthright to know blessing and to bless, to know our royalty and servanthood all at the same time.
That could be the greatest “struggle” of all.
— Lent 2012
Rev. Jacki Belile, CEC, is a spiritual life coach and ordained Baptist minister. She has supported LGBT people of faith and their allies on the journey of living out Christ’s radical welcome since 1996.