In so many of the great figures of salvation history—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, etc.—a period of testing or trial is required before they can commence their work. We see the same thing in the initiation rituals of primal peoples, and you can see it in Luke Skywalker’s initiation in Star Wars.
The goal of the Biblical initiation rituals is to convey this simple truth: your life is not about you. It is about God and God’s purposes for you.
This was the purpose of Jesus’s forty-day sojourn in the desert, which we model during Lent. The desert represents a stripping away of our attachments, so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert, there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, and simple. Either one survives or one doesn’t. One finds in the desert strengths and weaknesses he never knew he had.
So are you ready to visit your desert? Are you prepared to deal with your particular temptations to pleasure, power, money, and honor? Even if, in the past, you have not succeeded in the ways you wanted, remember that our God is a God of second chances. It’s never too late to start again.
On this Ash Wednesday, let’s recommit ourselves and together journey into the desert.