I saw a picture recently of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. It was taken in the dark of night with a star-filled backdrop. The Milky Way stretched out like thick cream. If you were on the street, somewhere in the city, you would not see the stars strewn above you, only blackness.
I also think of Jesus sitting alone in the wilderness, looking at the same sky. Looking at its wonders, the night world lit up by that river of stars.
The thing that is true of both the LA sky and the wilderness sky is that they can only be truly seen when there is no distraction. In LA, you must get away from all the light pollution of a big city. Otherwise, you would never know that a single star was above you. The beauty of the Milky Way hidden by L.E.D.s and fluorescent lights.
There is another kind of distraction or darkness, and it comes from within us. It comes as preoccupation with one’s self, like when you hit your thumb with a hammer and can see or hear nothing else except your screaming thumb. It comes when you experience something so emotionally painful or angering or disappointing you can’t purge your mind, and your sight, of the experience.
Maybe that is one of the reasons Jesus chose the wilderness. He wanted to see the stars of reality and truth. In the wilderness he could listen to the Spirit. Alone with God. No distractions, personal or otherwise.
Jesus’ comfort with the wilderness is in keeping with the fact that the last place Jesus went before his arrest was to the calm of Gethsemane. There he prayed and cried before God. Again, no distractions. Even the disciples were asleep.
The light and noise of our world stifles meditative and prayerful reflection. It’s like a drug that anesthetizes but does not produce true comfort and satisfaction. Only the wilderness will do that. Lent provides a golden opportunity for the clarity of the wilderness.
O God, our world cries out for calm. It is the one thing that only You can give us. In that calm we can hear you, find meaning, and refocus our attention. Please walk with us through Lent. Tap us on the shoulder and whisper in our ear. Let us know the best place to find you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.