Wilderness Upon the Pillows
Lent began this week; a time in which we recall the forty days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, praying, and being tempted, but resisting the devil's efforts. This event is told in three of the Gospels, including the reading for this Sunday in Mark 1:12-15. The number forty also has the meaning in Scripture of a time of testing. This wilderness experience was to prepare Him for all He would face over the next three years of His public ministry.
We walk out into the wilderness with Him by following His example—and to be tested so we grow stronger through perseverance with the help of the Holy Spirit, so that God can use us more fully. With humility, we take this time to allow God to change our hearts and minds to be transformed: "Create in me a new heart oh Lord, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51: 10).
After my kidney transplant in 2004, I had an unexpected "wilderness experience" in which I was tempted and my patience was tested. Having been on dialysis, and then having my friend Mary offering to be a donor with a successful transplant, I was ready for it all to be behind me. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. However, the transplanted ureter wasn't large enough, so every three months I would have to go in for outpatient surgery to place a stint until it stretched enough. It was a routine disruption for a day, but really not that big a deal.
One day, I went in as usual, fasting because I had to be sedated, but this time as I lay on the table half asleep from sedation, I realized that everyone stopped, and that the doctors were huddled in one corner talking in quiet voices. I asked if anything was wrong, and was told that I needed to be admitted, because I was hemorrhaging. Well, let's just say I wasn't happy about this turn of events. While I was extremely grateful for all the wonderful care of my doctors, nursing staff, and new transplant, I'd had enough of being in the hospital.
I was told not to move at all—every movement had to be done by the nursing staff. I had tubes and wires going in and out of me everywhere, and I was propped on all sides by pillows to restrict me from even adjusting my position without someone helping. I am not a person who likes to sit still very long—I need to be active, so this was truly a test of my patience.
So, there I was—stuck—not too happy about it, and I began to learn about my 94-year-old roommate. I will call her Flo. God bless her, because through her and especially her loving family, from my position as a reluctant patient in a hospital bed, the Lord worked a change within me.
In that "wilderness," he transformed my spirit.
Flo was in hospital because of repeated pneumonia due to aspirating her food. She was on a thickened diet where all her food, even liquids like her coffee, was made the consistency of half-gelled gelatin or baby food. Poor Flo complained continually to her son that she couldn't eat "this junk." She refused to eat, and called him every twenty minutes at his work to have the same conversation over and over. She didn't realize that her nurse call button wasn't the phone, so a frustrated nurse would have to keep coming in to help her. Her dear son would patiently explain that she couldn't have her corn flakes and sweets, but also explained to her once again that she needed to try to eat so that she could get better, and this was to help her. I really don't think that she remembered that she had just spoken to him.
Every night, he would bring her favorite DVD of someone dancing and singing (perhaps in Russian), and each night she exclaimed how "handsome and talented" he was. It made her so happy, and her son would sit there watching it with her as if he hadn't seen it before. I felt like I was living in the movie Groundhog Day!
As her son and daughter-in-law visited her, I came to know Flo as a wonderful mother and grandmother, simply by the way her family treated her. My patience had been tested, but the Lord was changing me at the same time. I felt real compassion for Flo, and was moved by observing how loving and patient her family was.
After a couple of days, as I was inwardly complaining about not being able to get up, it hit me like a splash of cold water: the Lord couldn't move or get off the cross. He wasn't propped by soft pillows in a hospital bed, but His poor beaten and bruised body was on a rough wooden cross with cruel nails through his hands and feet. It was one of those "Oh Lord, what do I have to complain about" moments of insight that brought me to a place where I could let go and allow Him to change my heart.
When we think of the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, we must realize it is not something distant. We may live in a crowded city or feel like we have too many circumstances demanding too much of us, and that may be precisely where we find our wilderness and our place of temptation—and of self-knowledge and renunciation. The good news is, no matter where you find your wilderness, Jesus is there with you, and able to lead you from it.
Marcia Morrissey is a wife, mother, and grandmother of two sweet little granddaughters in Minnesota. Her husband, Ed Morrissey, is a writer for hotair.com.