A walk of faith, a pilgrimage, requires two things. It requires looking to someone or something as our pattern so we move closer towards a desired destination. This destination can be a physical, spiritual or emotional place. The second requirement is that we actually move. A pilgrimage is not a passive act. Over Lent, Jesus is our pattern and our destination is closeness with him. Speaking with God is the force of our movement. In the end, we become witnesses to all we have seen and experienced along the way.
Over the last 40 days following Jesus through the wilderness brought us to first understand that God is with us there. We have a choice to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us through or to make our own way. The primary temptation we face in wilderness places is to not trust God’s love for us. The more we come to realize and accept his love, repenting for the times we don’t, the more we are able to follow Jesus fully and our lives resemble his. Repenting about other things becomes easier when we know that we are loved no matter what. His truth can be difficult to believe and along the way we are tempted to fall for the twisted truths and false promises that other things are more important and powerful than God. But following Jesus through the wilderness means to have an almost irrational belief that he will come through in the end! Evil will not win. Not only that, we will also be able to rest in the presence of our God as he leads us out of the wilderness and into lives that are witnesses to his goodness, to his faithfulness and to his kingdom come on earth.
The wilderness was the start of Jesus’ ministry years. Over three more years he would forgive sins, heal the sick, bring justice for the oppressed and live as God with us. When we want to see what God looks like, we need to look at Jesus. He didn’t just come to show us though, he came to take away all that doesn’t belong in heaven and deal with it so we wouldn’t have to. On Good Friday we remember how he took our sin and our disbelief on himself and died with it so we wouldn’t have to. On Easter Sunday we celebrate how he defeated death and got rid of everything that separates us from God, once and for all. Before he left earth he promised that the Holy Spirit would stay with us. We would be witnesses to who he is.
I don’t know what kind of wilderness you have been in this past month and whether it was one you chose or not. Many major aspects of my life hit extreme turbulence, very unexpectedly. At the same time, I saw people’s lives change from love. I saw pieces of heaven come to earth and restoration take place all around me. Following the Holy Spirit and trusting him has not left me disappointed. Instead, I have seen him work in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined half a year ago. I have seen him. I have witnessed who he is, not 2000 years ago but here and now.
This is where our pilgrimage leads us – to becoming witnesses. Over the last few days of this season, look for him and the things he has done. Ask him to show you. Wait for the Holy Spirit and become a witness to the things you see him do in your life and in the lives of people around you.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my (Jesus) Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:4-5, 8