Tradition and cowboy lore have it that in 1867 Jack Swilling stopped to rest his horse near the White Tank Mountains. He looked over the desolate wilderness of the desert and saw great potential. Now 125 years later we call this place Phoenix. It's the six largest city in the US and home to millions of people. I live here. In the desert. I live in the wilderness and this is where life is for me.
Jesus was baptized. "And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the desert 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts and the angels waited on him."
I have found myself getting the metaphor of the wilderness confused with the painful living of life. As a Christian, I believe I live in the wilderness and this is where life is for me. I don't believe as a Christian I can separate the wilderness experience from life itself. The wild beasts AND the angels are both in the wilderness.
In the Christian experience of Lent we march the pilgrimage of the paschal mystery. Baptism to living the pilgrimage in the wilderness to the cross. Easter may be coming but life is in the wilderness.
Just a year ago I was working at a local parish. On Tuesday mornings the young adult moms gather for Bible study. At the conclusion of the study, Jen, just seven months pregnant went to the ladies room. Less than three minutes later another young mom followed. The second mom found Jen lying silently on the floor. Her face was already blue.
No amount of life saving cpr efforts by those with Jen nor the paramedics would bring her back to life. Her death was immediate and the cause is still uncertain. The paramedics rushed Jen to the local hospital. Every effort was made to save her unborn son. He lived six weeks. It was so tragic and seems so senseless.
Those, I believe, who are Christians are born by baptism into a called life. That life, is a life that is lived intentionally in the wilderness. It's lived in the wilderness because that's where life really happens. If we see "the wilderness" as just one or a series of those tough and hard experiences to go through, then we could lead ourselves to the conclusion that either God caused Jen and her son to die or that God didn't care enough to stop their death. I don't believe either thing.
What I am suggesting is a theology that says that God Incarnate came to live a vulnerable life among us; born of a woman, walking the dusty roads of life, sitting by the well thirsty, hungry sending the disciples off to buy food, raised by a widowed mom, mistrusted by his brothers and sisters, rejected by his own home town, betrayed with a kiss, abandoned by his closest friends, to die alone, naked and humiliated. God with us in the wilderness of life. Why do horrible things happen to good and innocent people? I don't know. But, I believe in a God who lives in the world, incognito in Jen and in her son and in you and me. And God understands living in the wilderness of life.
We live in the wilderness and this is where life is for us. And God is with us.