March 5 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and I spent the day in bed with a horrible sore throat. In fact I was sick several days last week which was frustrating since Lent is my favorite time of the year. I had decided not to use one of Ed Hays’ devotional guides which I use every year. However, after attending Circle of Mercy on Sunday evening, I changed my mind. The worship service contained so many wilderness references and I saw a connection with the idea of journey present in Hays devotionals, so I pulled out one of his books, “The Hobo Honeymoon” to use this year.
For “Fat Tuesday” he writes, “While both the idea of a honeymoon and of being a hobo might seem inappropriate for the holy season of Lent, remember the words of the great patriarch Moses, who proudly declared, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and we were traveling vagabonds and vagrants who found our way to Egypt and lived there as aliens’ (Deuteronomy 26:5). Your spiritual ancestors were hobos, so rejoice in your proud heritage of traveling vagabonds as you begin these forty days.”
I’m not keen on the Honeymoon idea but I do like the concept of a wanderer. Hays points out that wanderers were put into three classes: tramps, bums and hobos. A hobo was a migratory laborer who took on various odd jobs. During Lent, one becomes a Lenten pilgrim on a road of reform and renewal.
At Circle of Mercy this past Sunday, Nancy Sehested preached on the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. I especially like that she used Clarence Jordan’s adaption of the passage. Instead of calling the devil, “the tempter” Jordan calls him, “the confuser.” She suggests the “tempter” moved in at the point of Jesus’ strength. “Jesus was tempted to do good. Make bread. Lead the Temple. Lead the nations.” Using Jordan’s description of the confuser she continued, “The confuser knows where we are strongest. That’s why it is so confusing. We are tempted not so much to do bad things. We are tempted to do good things with bad intent.”
While I know it isn’t exactly the same, her sermon pushed me to think about how my strengths have gotten confused. It seems I’m so aware of my weaknesses, I don’t even see my strengths. The Confuser encourages me to believe I don’t have any strengths for I often see only my weaknesses. A while ago, a therapist suggested I make a list of my losses as well as a list of words which describe the essence of who I am. Looking back on it, I see it is really a list of my strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes it seems I spend a lot of time in the wilderness. I wonder, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t things ever be settled and consistent? Why do I spend so much time here?” Nancy pointed out Jesus never escaped the wilderness for it was always with him. This Lent, I’m going to be a Lenten hobo in the wilderness.
Nancy calls wilderness a gift. “It is a doorway into living out of a deeper truth. If we can stay in the pain, the emptiness, the confusion long enough, then maybe we can recognize that the only recognition we need is from God. Wilderness is a time to allow the pain to teach us.” I want to learn how Jesus lived in his wanderings as I journey this year towards Easter.