12 March, 2016

Are We There Yet?

Do you take long road trips?  There is really nothing quite like a road trip.  It offers us great opportunity to see the countryside and all sorts of local sites.  It also is quite an opportunity for family bonding or something like bonding!  I can remember long ago road trips with my parents.  My mama's family is from Thomasville, Georgia and we would take an annual trip to visit.  Now living in Jackson, Mississippi this created a nice long drive for our family.  For years, we stopped at the same restaurant for breakfast as my dad insisted we leave before sunrise.  I still remember it after 40 years; you could play the jukebox from your booth!  This was a very high-tech situation!  And I remember my sister losing her shoes because either she or our brother threw them out the window at some point on the trip - this was not a happy outcome.  But I REALLY remember that my daddy would smoke his pipe while we were driving along...."it's OK," he would say.  "My window is cracked [slightly open] so the smoke is flowing right out."  Ummm, not so much.  But the repeating words from my childhood days and those from my own children were always, "Are we there yet?"  Over and over, Are we there yet?

This Lent season I feel those words forming, "Are we there yet, Lord?"  Am I learning what you have for me during these 40 days?  When will this period be over?  I want to hurry the process.  But as we all know...many situations will not be hurried.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”Luke 4:1-3
At the end of forty days of temptation we read of an exchange between Jesus and the devil.  The Bible says that Jesus was tempted for forty days but yet we only read of three specific temptations.  Could it be that these three temptations represent all temptation in our lives? The first temptation we read about is the temptation of basic need.  In this reading, Jesus was tempted with bread. After forty days with no food, He had to have been so very hungry.  But yet, He knew there was more to living than bread itself.

I have come to believe that the mention of bread in these verses may represent more than physical food.  Is it possible that Jesus was referring to the physical needs and wants of our lives?  This 'bread' may include all those basic things I need to survive...food, water, shelter...for without these I quickly come to the end of myself.  True, but in fact, for we humans the basics of life have become more than basic.  My basic need to survive has been redefined and now includes abundance, more, more and more.  Do I stop at what I need or do I keep going to what I want and desire?  Are my wants out-living my true needs?

Jesus must have been starving, literally starving.  And yet, he refused to eat.  For He knew, 'man shall not live on bread alone.'  There is so much more to real living.  Many of us are not starving physically this Lent.  But are we starving spiritually when we don't even know it?  Is that our place of temptation?  Is there a place of great abundance in me that hides the place of great starvation?  Do we find ourselves in a place of plenty and still wanting more?  Do we try to live on bread alone?

C. S. Lewis offers us this word from Mere Christianity:
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self: all your wishes and precautions, to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness our great aim, and yet at the same time to be 'good.' We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way: centered on money or pleasure or ambition, and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.  And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do."
So let's do a new thing.  Let's trust that what Jesus says is true. God wants to do a new thing in us.  Look for it, see it!  He is making a way for us through the desert and providing streams for us.

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

We cannot live by the bread of our plenty!  And until we realize this simple but great truth we will continuously and agonizingly be asking, "Are we there yet?"

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