From the desk of Mary Pandiani
March 4, 2020
The “if” questions. As a conditional phrase, the “if” leads into questions such as “what if,” “if not,” “if you can,” and other such doubt-sowing questions. Our world is full of them, especially the anxiety when we experience a season of “if this” ____________ (coronavirus, financial security, illness, etc – you fill in the blank) doesn’t change, then what? There are other kinds of “if” questions that focus on necessities for sustainability in everyday life, security and safety, power and control – the things that make the world go round. If you don’t have them, then life falls apart, right? We need the basics, wanting and needing them aren’t bad in and of themselves. But what if the desire for the basics prove to be the very thing that gets in the way of what is best for us? How do we discern then how to live? The “if” questions offers a chance to pause, to wonder, to remember about what’s most important, as I reflect on them during this season of Lent.
Jesus encounters the “if” questions while being tempted in the desert. Right after he hears the words at his baptism, “You are my beloved,” he moves into the wilderness, fasting for 40 days. He faces the “if” questions by the tempter who sows doubt and causes misdirection in the important work to come. “If you are the son of God…” “If you can turn the stones into bread….” “If you can throw yourself down….” Each time, Jesus replies with a statement “It is written” to shut the tempter down.
How does Jesus discern in the midst of his fasting and exposed state, choosing the way of God over what the tempter offers? What gives him wisdom for the better choice, even in the things that are important in life – eating, protection, power that helps create energy? What, in turn, shapes us to do likewise, providing strength and wisdom to face the “if” questions with a discerning heart?
Remember Jesus’ entry point into the desert with the awareness and receiving of his identity soaked in belovedness? That foundation shapes him as he declares “it is written.” He is an expression of God’s love as the “Word.” The scripture that once was read to him now becomes a part of him. The shaping of his life comes from what Eugene Peterson speaks of “entering the world of the text and letting the text ‘read’ me.” The declaration of “it is written” speaks to what has become a part of him, an interior life of listening and responding, living into his identity of belovedness, that leads to an exterior life of discernment and purpose.
What is written on my heart? What is shaping me as I make choices? Can I live into my own belovedness as God’s child? In this season of Lent, can I walk the road of reflection letting God do “God’s healing action within” (Welcoming Prayer) through letting go of what I believe I need in order to receive what God has? What “if” that happens?
so, I wonder —
what is it that keeps it from collapsing in on itself
Love — the same Love the that pulls me out of gentle slumber,
calls me into the shape of its desires, and holds me true….”
― Kate Mullane Robertson