FORTY DAYS IN THE WILDERNESS
Rev. Terry Biddington, Ph.D.
80 pages, 5½" × 8½"
This book will take you on a journey of discovery—about Jesus and about you.
There are probably dozens of Lent books that take Jesus in the wilderness as their starting point, but this one doesn’t preach or seek to tell people what to think or believe. Rather, the reader is cleverly drawn into the story—feeling Jesus’ emotions, pain, hunger and thirst, self-doubts and moments of clear vision. The result is a new understanding of Jesus in the desert and of the reader’s own wilderness moments. It offers readers personal questions to ponder on their own Lenten journey.
About the Author
Terry Biddington is an Anglican priest currently working as co-ordinating chaplain to the Manchester Higher Education Community, UK.
"I like the warmth and creativity and simplicity of this. It seems to me as if many writers try to do complex things with the 6 weeks of Lent—a week about this, a section about that. This, in contrast, takes us and leads us on a journey through the desert—that really works for me.” — Rev Joss Walker, Anglican priest, Maidstone, England
“While the structure is simple, I appreciate that the author is actually doing something very complex here. Using the method of imagining Jesus' thoughts and experience, he uses a familiar story to edge us into an unfamiliar consideration of the many inner struggles and experiences which shape the way we view and respond to life. It deceives us into surprisingly deep reflection. I also think the quotations are outstanding, and sum up beautifully the heart of each day's challenge. It is innovative & thought-provoking; creative and excellent.” — Rev Dr John Walker, diocese of Canterbury, UK
This accessible short Lent book changes our perceptions of Jesus’ ministry. We go from seeing Jesus through our own eyes to seeing our selves through Jesus eyes. It leaves us wanting to know and learn so much more.” — Penny Glover, Christian bookseller, Manchester UK
Here, as an excerpt, is the first day's reflection.
Day 1: The Queue
He loved to walk along the water’s edge, be it at the side of the great lake, along the slow winding Jordan, or a trickling-tumbling stream high in the foothills. There was always so much to see. Whether it was the seashore with the various tide lines exposing hidden things, or the bank of a river or stream, he felt that the water’s edge was a curious place of transition between two worlds. And as he walked he wondered what would be revealed today.
Past a bend and round a hill and down amongst the foliage close on the river’s edge he saw the queue of people. Dozens of them, mostly standing in rapt attention. What could they all be doing out here in the middle of nowhere? He asked the question despite already guessing the answer.
Jesus approached slowly to where the queue of people was emerging from within the milling crowd. Then he positioned himself at the back of the crowd and watched. Some of the people gathering there were clearly pushing hard to get to the front; others were progressing more wearily, happy to be edged aside, as though not quite sure they should be there at all. Many just stood as close as they could without getting drawn inexorably into the forward motion.
In the shallows near the riverbank two men in white held the crowd back and only let an individual through on the shouted instruction of the man in the river’s midstream. This was John, the one called “the Baptizer,” whom they’d all come out to see and hear.
John stood waist deep in the river and shouted at the crowd, urging them on and out into the water. Each time someone waded out to him he whispered in their ear and then, readjusting his stance, pushed them backwards into the water. “Repent and be baptized,” he shouted. “Your new life starts here!”
In the queue on the riverbank Jesus still watched. He had, in fact, been watching John for several weeks now; following him from place to place, and back and forth to the river, as John called on the crowds to “repent and be baptized,” dismissing the merely curious among the onlookers with an angry gesture of impatience and slapping the newly initiated on the back with a rough hand.
But today, at last, Jesus sensed that his own time had come. He’d seen John watching him, throwing him a glance from time to time, a look of curiosity and challenge. Now it was time to finally make his decision.
For so very long Jesus had pondered and struggled with his sense of destiny. For months he’d felt the peculiar tugging in his guts, urging him on to something. Something he couldn’t quite conceive of, or capture in thoughts or words.
This prompting, feeling, intuition, hunch—call it what you will—had played on him long enough. And each time it came back to this moment and to this choice: To step forward into the water and so open up some unknown future possibility, or to walk away, back to his old life; to familiar routines and expectations, to the safety of marriage and children, perhaps. But also to never knowing what might have been.
Suddenly, he knew what he had to do. He could no longer resist. And so Jesus consented to the possibility he felt in his being. From the other side of this moment in time, something was calling him urgently. He could ignore it no longer. He had to step forward, take the risk, and walk the road of possibility.
Jesus’ questions to us:
Is there something in your life that you feel you might be called to do? What is this feeling like? When do you sense it? What anxieties do you have about it?
A thought for today:
“Here ends the known. But from a source beyond it, something fills my being with its possibilities.”
—Dag Hammarskjold, former UN Secretary General.