I don’t feel like it will come as a surprise that I am a fan of the Jesus. This means different things to a lot of people, and though there is a heinous trend of people doing atrocities in the name of Christendom right now, I will say that I am a fan of the Jesus. This much is true.
Today I was reading in Luke 4 and verse one in the NIV says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The NIV is the version familiar to me but today I had my reflection time in a different room that had a different translation, the ESV, which says that Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness. The difference of translation in this one word opened my eyes to a way in which I had been getting it wrong in my previous attempts to understand this passage. This is something that happens often as I read with new eyes or in a new season of life, and I hope continues to happen for the span of my lifetime. I never want to finish learning, understanding and seeking to see this living and active body of words at new depths and from new angles.
When I am in the wilderness places I get scared and usually cry out. Similar to my youngest, who will run to the bathroom to go potty at night and freeze in the doorway and just stand there yelling, “DARK”. I too tend to freeze up and flail about trying to alert the one I follow that something must have gone awry because I find myself somewhere I “ought not to be” because… well, I don’t like it. I don’t like the feeling, I don’t like the wilderness or valley, and I do not like that I can never see far enough to see how long this particular adventure in the fathoms below is going to take. My assumption is that I have misstepped or that the one guiding me must have mixed up my prayers with someone else’s as I clearly had plans for the heights.
In the past this verse I read had brought little comfort because it seemed that the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness, where they did their secret handshake before the Spirit headed back, where Jesus finds himself alone, hungry, and scared. But if we read that the Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness then there can be beauty from ashes. It means this time in the valley, walking hard roads with what little strength we can scrounge up for this seemingly endless journey may in fact produce something in us. I can see when I have been led to the wilderness times, but there is no resulting affection or delight in walking through them. But if this is in fact an intentional place where I get to learn more about who it is that I follow and who I have been made to be, then there is hope. Beauty. Purpose. Expectancy. It no longer becomes about surviving the journey, but about looking for the growth that is being fostered in this time.
If you say that you are a fan of the Jesus and especially if you say that you are following him then you are going to go through the wilderness because he did and because he does. You cannot skip entire portions of the journey and expect to end up at the same destination. If you “follow Jesus” there are innumerable ways that your life will be different than what you would plan out without attempting to follow him. That is inherent in the definition of following anyone other than yourself. So when it starts to get dark and you sense you are heading into a place of “growth opportunity,” my suggestion is to pause and remember that the Spirit leads you. It is not a leading to and a fist bump before a “sayonara”, it is a walking ahead and leading us from up close. In the same way that my littlest can remember through her ear-splitting cry of “DARK!” that she knows how to turn on the light, we do too.