I don’t know about you, but our day-to-day life at Letton Hall is quite significantly affected by the changing seasons. Although our efforts at horticulture are modest, we find ourselves thinking about winter planting as the summer flowers begin to die away and look fondly at the mower, wondering how many more cuts we will have to do this year and whether we’ll have a dry enough day to get on to the grass! With rain forecast, our thoughts turn to the many maintenance tasks inside the buildings, that have been neglected as we were more active outside during the summer months. The season is changing.
Many of us are familiar with the changing seasons as a perennial metaphor for life. Perhaps the most famous Bible passage to develop this metaphor is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ‘A Time for Everything’. Surely there is a wisdom in knowing and accepting the times and seasons we pass through?
This morning, in our staff prayer time, we looked at the account in Luke 4:1-13 of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. Again, the image of the desert as a metaphor for dry and testing times in our lives is a familiar one, yet not to be seen as an entirely negative experience. St. John of the Cross and other mystics have helped us to see that such dark nights, or desert times can be valuable seasons to help us in our journey towards understanding our union with God.
As we looked at the passage, we noticed that in the first verse, where some translations tell us that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit into the desert’ several others show us that a better translation is ‘in the desert’, with footnotes suggesting that Jesus was ‘led under the Spirit’s influence’, or as one translation has it ‘Jesus was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness (desert)’. The thought here is that Jesus was not abandoned into his time of testing, but accompanied and guided in it by the Holy Spirit. He was able to grapple with the tough questions and temptations as he drew on the encouragement of the Spirit’s presence. When, despite his physical hunger, he quoted the scripture ‘man does not live by bread alone’, he was living out that reality, there and then!
How would it change our experience of dry or arid seasons in our lives if, by faith, we could see that we are not abandoned into them, but are led in and through them? That these difficult seasons, far from being negative and pointless, are in fact ones that God can use to help us grow in our knowledge of Him and fellowship with Him?