In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:9-13
In the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent, the writer of Mark uses just five verses to describe the profound events that begin Jesus’ earthly ministry. A closer reading reveals deep truths as we consider the implications of these five brief verses for our own lives.
When we read that at Jesus’ baptism, he hears God’s voice affirming his identity as God’s beloved Son, we are reading what some biblical scholars term a call story. This is an experience which brings the person involved to a dawning awareness of God’s specific will for their life. For those of us who have struggled to find our sense of “calling,” whether professionally or otherwise, we might assume having your calling affirmed so powerfully would open a clear and certain path forward for Jesus. But reading between the lines, the story implies that Jesus required a “wilderness experience” to become perfectly clear about his response to God’s call, and so we have a holy pattern offered for our own lives.
The word wilderness invokes the idea of time apart from normal routines, away from everyday comforts and distractions, away from things which offer a sense of security and perhaps keep us from seriously considering something God may be calling forth in our life. This often takes the shape of an emotional or intellectual wilderness, leaving us unsettled, questioning, uncertain. The gift of grace is that in the very circumstances which make us uncomfortable and struggle with questions about direction and choices, we are invited to a time of honest assessment, fresh thinking, surprising discovery, and a deepening faith that the God who calls us is also the God who is ever-present with us to guide, provide, strengthen, and sustain us.
Living Your Calling
The place God calls you to is the place where
your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
e. e. cummings
There is no greater gift you can give or receive
than to honor and act upon your calling.
It is why you were born.
And how you become most fully alive.
Whatever God tells us to do,
he also helps us to do.
How many individuals have you helped
become better people?
Be strong and courageous;
do not be frightened or dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.
May he give you the power to accomplish
all the good things your faith prompts you to do.
I Thessalonians 1:11
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your path.