Barren. Infertile. Without. I'm describing a wasteland. A desert. I'm also describing me and my current walk with Jesus. I yearn for a baby that doesn’t exist. I am the only child still standing in the school yard after all of the teams have been picked. It isn't like a child wishing for an elephant for her birthday, because I haven't forgotten about it and moved on to other toys. I mourn for the child I don't have monthly. Daily. I am in a place that is lonely. It is vast. It is barren. It is inhospitable. It is lonely.
I am not catholic, but I am struck by the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who encouraged Christians to walk with Jesus across the desert of Lent and to “listen more closely to the voice of God, and to unmask the temptations that speak within each of us.” My desert isn't lonely because I walk with Christ.
In Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. While there, he fasted. He did without what his body craved. In his time of trial, Satan tempted him. Three times, Satan offered Jesus what he craved (food, comfort, power) and three times Jesus trusted in the power of the Lord. Jesus called upon the Lord for His strength. He reminded himself of The Word.
When God saved the Israelites from slavery and abuse they wandered through the desert for forty years. The journey should have only taken eleven days, but they lost their way and tried to go without God. (Numbers 14:33-34 "Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years -- one year for each of the forty days you explored the land -- you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.") God used that time in the dessert to teach the Israelites and prepare the way for them to be His holy people. For forty years God gave His people food, water, shelter. He showed them He could take of them. He proved His trustworthiness. He offered them His heart, His faithfulness, and His love.
Right now, I am in a desert. My body, my heart, my soul all crave the same thing.
Jesus came out of the desert stronger and so will I. The Israelites left the desert with a better relationship with the Lord and so will I.
Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter and owes much of its meaning to the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the desert. During Lent, many Christians will abstain from a worldly experience in an effort to draw closer to God. Just as Jesus left behind everything that held him back and walked into the desert, we are called to leave behind our baggage and focus on Christ.
This Lent, I gave up my guilt. I am not cursed because I am infertile. This is not a punishment from God. I didn't do anything wrong. I am not less of a woman. I am not a bad wife because I don't have a child. I am not a bad daughter. I am not a bad daughter-in-law. I have no reason to feel guilty.
But I do.
I feel like I must have done something wrong. I feel like I am less of a woman. I feel like I am a bad wife. I feel like I am a bad daughter. I feel guilty.
This Lent I gave up this feeling of guilt. Every day I woke up and tried to remind myself that, like the Israelites, God has a purpose for me and my journey. Like Jesus, I am in the desert but I am not alone. God is walking with me. I have been tempted… tempted to give up, tempted to follow a Hagar, tempted to test God, tempted to seek my comfort, my sustenance, and my power elsewhere. But God has been faithful to me. God didn't bring about my circumstances, but He created me to be the perfect me. Most importantly, he knows I am hurting and I am in pain. He is trustworthy! He is faithful! He offered me his heart! His love! He will take care of me!
God has proven Himself. He is my Everlasting Father. Counselor. Wonderful Redeemer. The Way. The Truth. The Light. Friend.
At the end of the desert we celebrate Easter. We celebrate because "on the third day He [Jesus] rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty" (from the Apostle's Creed). We celebrate because Christ died for us. He died for our sins. He died for our salvation. He keeps us company is oun deserts. He knows the desert will end and we will find our gardens. He knows where we are going and where we have come from.
He knows that there is life beyond the desert.