It is the beginning of Lent for many in the Christian tradition–a period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday that begins today, Ash Wednesday. While in real time the 40 days leads up to the somber remembrance and celebration of Jesus’ final days–his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday, lent actually correlates with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before he even began his ministry. During those 40 days, Jesus was not only tested and tempted, but Jesus was also tempered and transformed for his public ministry. It was a safari, if you will, a journey or expedition in search of probity, power, and purpose of the divine kind–the three essential elements for blissful authenticity.So, on this first day of Lent 2017 as I begin my 40 day safari, I invite you to journey along with me. I invite you to challenge yourself not only to refrain from the external, but to reform the internal. This expedition is about confronting the False Self, extricating the True Self, and embodying the purpose for which you were created. You see, sometimes we give Satan way too much credit when the enemy is oftentimes the False Self In-A-Me. For this Lenten season, let it not be about us simply feeling better because we denied ourselves something trivial, but let it be about being better because we developed the gift that God has placed in us.
Jesus’ wilderness safari was not simply about him feeling better, because he denied himself, but it was about him being better by knowing God and himself. In Matthew 4:3, the very first thing Satan says is an attack on Jesus’ identity–initiating the first temptation with “If you are the Son of God…” In fact, it was such a key part of Satan’s strategy that he used that phrase again as a precursor to the second temptation. Interestingly, Jesus never gave Satan’s insinuation any credence by directly refuting it, because Jesus knew who He was. He had entered the wilderness on the heels of the most amazing baptismal experience where the sky had split open, the Spirit of God had descended upon him like a dove, and a voice from heaven had proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) The same Spirit, however, that had descended on Jesus at his baptism had also sent him into this wilderness safari equipped with the truth of who he was, because his divine identity as the Son of God had to be tempered with his humanity as the Son of Man. As the church has traditionally given all the attention to Jesus and Satan in this narrative, we have often missed another main actor in this passage, the Spirit of God. Sadly, the Spirit of God is also deftly missing in much of our western theology, and for these 40 days we want to do a course correction, because this journey is not simply about taming the body, but living in the Spirit.
Over the next 40 days, we will approach lent as a season of not only constraint but confrontation–a wilderness safari in search of our blissful authenticity–the embodiment of the True Self, the authentic you, the purpose for which you were created. Since Jesus already wrote the play book, we know that there are three main temptations ahead. First up is probity or truth, because there can be no real resistance without truly knowing who you are. When Jesus is tempted to rely on his ego–his false self–to turn stones to bread, Jesus resists, because his identity is grounded in the truth of who God is, and he doesn’t have to become a chameleon to suit his circumstances. Second up is power, because there can be no real transformation without legitimate power, which oftentimes stands in direct contradiction to legal and lawful power. When Jesus is tempted to use his power in a narcissistic, self-serving, and egotistical manner (that was probably legal) to prove his identity–which has already been proven and proclaimed–he not only acknowledges God as his source of power, but exercises character, wisdom and emotional stability in the use of that power. He does not unleash an unstable, irrational, and insecure twitter storm. Enough said. Third up is purpose, because there cannot be palpable embodiment of one’s true purpose without probity and legitimate power. When Jesus is tempted to bow down in exchange for material wealth and worldly power, he refuses because he knows who he is, from whom he derives power, and the purpose for which he was created–to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Matthew 4:10) Probity, power, and purpose are the core principles of the Lenten Safari, because when you know who you are and when you derive your power from legitimate sources, you can embody the purpose for which you were created.
So, this is not your run of the mill feel good fast for giving up dairy or Starbucks for 40 days, but this is the be good fast that Isaiah calls us to in Isaiah 58. Please read the entire chapter at your leisure, but verse 6 really captures the sentiment of what this Lenten Safari is all about:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
The reality is that we live in a world that has pretty much always operated on #alternativefacts and now does so unabashedly, a world that is being run by illegitimate but legal power sources, and a world that has been ordered to exist solely for the purpose of benefiting a few at the demise of many. Like Jesus, we are both divine and human, and this Lenten Safari is an opportunity to embrace and confront both our divinity and our humanity so that we can fully embody our purpose. Although this safari experience is FREE, it is not for the faint of heart, because it will cost you something. You will need to leave something or some things in the wilderness so that you can move into your purpose. Are you up for the challenge? SIGN UP HERE
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.