Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent: Desert Season to Deepen our Roots

Lake Superior

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” -Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

Lent is an opportunity to join with Christ in his forty days of fasting and praying in the desert wilderness. Indeed Christians since the Early Church have set apart the forty days leading up to Easter as Lent to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness and rededicate their lives to the Lord. It is a season to share with Jesus in the forty days’ desert experience of fasting and prayer.

Two Options in the Desert
The desert is dangerous, by definition. In the physical wilderness, we lack our basic needs—let alone our desires—for everyday life. Likewise, a spiritual desert season is one in which we do not have all that we want or need. Often we do not experience God’s love or guidance or comfort as we have in the past. Instead, we feel lonely—as well as emotionally and spiritually dehydrated—and we wonder where the Lord has gone.

The desert is dry and difficult. It demands that we wait and trust. “The desert makes us wait, forces us to look for help beyond our own initiative, plans, or grasp and to long for pure, unmerited, no-conditions grace.”[1]

We can respond to that desert in couple of ways. One option is that we can become impatient and grumble. That is precisely what the Israelites did after Moses led them across the Red Sea during the Exodus. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” they complained. “Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” (Exodus 17:3 RNAB). Such ingratitude and grousing only cultivates more impatience and bitterness in our souls.

The other option is for us to put our roots down deeper. When plants go through dry seasons, they put their roots further down, hoping to find more water. So, in desert seasons, we are invited to extend our roots further into the Lord. When the sources of spiritual vitality go dry, it is an opportunity to experience God on a whole new level. Letting go our former ways of experiencing the Lord in our lives, we are free and receptive to relationship with God on a whole new plane.

As we trust in the Lord during the drought, our roots go deeper and deeper into him. Jeremiah 17:7-8 states, "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD. . . . They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.”

Putting our Roots into the Lord
Deep roots do not go down overnight. It takes a whole growing season for stronger roots to be established. Lent can be such a growing season in our lives. In fact, it welcomes us—it beckons you and me—to new spiritual growth.

Joining with Jesus in forty days of fasting and prayer is a powerful way to reorder our priorities and cut through the clutter of all that keeps us from wholeheartedly walking with the Lord. This year, let us take that invitation and put our spiritual roots down deep so that in the months ahead our branches can bear fruit as never before!

[1] Blasé Cupich, as quoted in Give Us this Day (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press), pp. 244-45.

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

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