Barren Deserts and Volleyball.

I began my drive to a nearby park to go play some volleyball on a beautiful spring day. I pulled into the park entrance and I noticed a flood of people. Confused by what was going on, I just decided to go with it and park where the police officer directed me. In the midst of hundreds of cars, I walked with the current of people around me. Like a confused fish caught in the current…I just went with it.

My mind began to put two and two together and I realized local people in Gainesville were reenacting Jesus’ walk on Good Friday in the park today.

The current I was swept into – was possibly up to a thousand or so people on their way to reflect, remember, and witness what it would feel like to be there when Jesus was crucified. To put themselves in the story.

And here I was just walking to volleyball…

“I would not trade the desert pain for anything in the world. Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. Lent is not to force obligations upon us, but to soften our heart that it may open itself to the realities of the Spirit. To experience the hidden thirst and hunger for communion with God.”

The desert.

40 days ago I decided to participate in Lent. And fasting looked a little differently than you’d imagine – it wasn’t necessarily some tangible thing to let go of. It was my thoughts, my motives, and my expectations that I began to fast: regrets, collecting praise, speeding past sorrow, avoidance, fixing it, isolation, religious profiling, rationalism, apathy, discontentment, and the list goes on.

The hot desert sun was vaporizing all of my defense mechanisms and walls. It has this feeling to it of being a tree and someone just ripping your bark off. It feels harsh, vulnerable, and exposed. It feels like you could potentially die from the rough and abrasive beating sun and the cold freezing nights as they whip against your unprotected skin leaving you convinced you’ll die alone in this desert.

And when I’m convinced my heart is giving out, He comes in and He holds me together. Being in this desert for 40 days has pushed me into understanding where my thirst in the dry heat will be satisfied and where I will find shelter and warmth from the freezing nights. I don’t have to die in this desert.

I wondered if this is what it would be like for me during the time of Jesus’ life. Would I have been one of the spectators who shot out of bed to go see those who would be crucified that morning? Would I have been one of the disciples who wanted to be with Him as long as possible? Or would I simply have been someone who had plans that morning and just happened to walk by and witness Him being crucified from afar? Continuing on with my volleyball game and peeking glimpses in between serves…

Today, to the disciples, to us, Jesus was in the tomb. The man who came and turned the world upside down with Kingdom theology was dead and buried.

I’m sitting here looking out my window at the most dreary and grey spring day. It’s as if the sun and blue sky have lost their vibrant shouts of joy in a way to make recognition of sorrow and grief. What if I didn’t know about Jesus rising tomorrow? What if I sat here and pondered on my 40 days in the desert, wondering about the man who showed me the hard and uncomfortable parts of myself and of life, but also showed me freedom? Would I discount it all? Would I think the so-called promise was dead and was buried with Him?

An even more barren desert that resides within a Saturday.

These past 40 days have been some of the hardest I have had in quite some time. I have sat at my kitchen table each morning and cried for more hours than I ever have in one collective space. I’ve been stripped and seen some really ugly parts of myself, but the most amazing part of it all is how much the Father still sits with me. How He gently guides me, refines me and teaches me like a Father would to any child who is growing. He has never abandoned, walked away, or given up on me. These past 40 days have been the hardest, but they are also the closest I have ever been in communion with the Spirit. It is the closest I have ever been with the Father and His love is overwhelming. Like a kite in a hurricane, it is absolutely overwhelming and awe-shockingly beautiful all at the same time. His love is a violent storm and we’re simply caught in the middle.

I like to believe that I wouldn’t forget the promise of that kind of love I experienced while at the table. That I wouldn’t count it as a lost simply because He wasn’t here with me today. That I would walk in what I remembered, those experiences, and not forget.

Because those things don’t get buried. That’s the kind of love that deserves to live forever.

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