temptation – a Lenten reflection

Considering spiritual discipline (March 7, spiritual discipline – a Lenten reflection and March 11, spiritual discipline redux – a Lenten reflection) leads me, perhaps inexorably, to contemplate temptation. Mine. As a follower of Jesus, I’m led to revisit his. During Lent, I’ve been rereading the Gospel of Luke. So, I turned to that evangelist’s account of Jesus’ wilderness temptations – a lens through which I behold the interior struggle between human desire and higher calling.

temptationThe devil tempts Jesus to satisfy his hunger (“Turn this stone to bread”), to get power (“Worship me and I grant you unlimited authority”), and to gain stature (“Leap from the temple and God’s angels will catch you; the dramatic display drawing crowds”). Jesus rejects every inducement.

I wish my enticements to do less or other than what I believe I’m called to do were as clear as those Jesus confronted. I also wish my responses were as certain. Usually it’s not that way for me. There have been moments when temptations and solutions were obvious. Largely, though, it’s not clarity I see, at least not immediately, but ambiguity. The choices of what to do are not between right and wrong or good and evil, but between less/least bad and more/most good.

One more difficulty. Often I don’t know the quality of my choosing until time passes and I can evaluate the outcomes and consequences. Much of my time I neither spend in the allegorical desert places of my life where the landscape is so barren things appear in bold relief nor on the proverbial mountaintop of revelation where on a clear day I can see forever. Typically, the color I see is gray.

Reflecting on Jesus’ temptations, I’m oddly comforted. Though clear his responses were, I don’t find in them definitive ethical instruction for every eventuality. It’s not the way Jesus taught and it’s not the way I read the Bible. However, I do see an outline of the shape that temptations often take. To turn stone to bread is to ignore, at all costs, the call of self-sacrifice. To seek power is to covet success more than faithfulness. To leap from the temple is to present myself in speech and action as someone other than who I am.

In the midst of life, facing temptation and making choices is never easy. But maybe, often enough, knowing what my temptations look like, at least for starters, is enough.

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4 thoughts on “temptation – a Lenten reflection

  1. This is ALL good news to me Paul!! I seem to never see just black and white…it’s the gray that impacts me the most too when it comes to my choices. I’m usually worried about the outcomes or afraid of the consequences! This year I hope is going to be different!! I’m taking big risks primarily in my business endeavors. The temptation of “this is what I what right now” has been much quieter of late. I’m finally becoming much more content with all of the awesome things and experiences I have in my life and much less content of wanting trivial things. It makes making the huge choices in my life easier if I’m not clouded with the little things. This reflection is most hopeful for me!

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  2. “I’m finally becoming much more content with all of the awesome things and experiences I have in my life and much less content of wanting trivial things.” I read this as a transparent statement on its face, but, oh, how profound. To behold the “awesome things and experiences”, which, as I reflect on your sharing of moments in your encounters, especially regarding your book, happen suddenly as an instant (because it is an instant, almost trivial if not observed and noted!) of connection between you and another, is wondrous. So unexpected and so powerful in the instant of its occurrence.

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    • Yes powerful indeed!! This week in NJ were small book signings yet some of the most powerful to date. Today I signed to do 11 more book tour dates all the way to Sept. Lots more people to touch!! Thanks Paul!!

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  3. Congrats to you for the fruit-bearing of your industry in loving and learning, then writing, again, what I’ve said to you is a seminal work; one the has deep resonance in a world of the advances of medical science that allow us to live longer and, thus, in an increasing number of family circumstances, to become children to our children. I look forward to reading your blog posts of your experiences!

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