Wilderness Days

It was a body blow, this latest challenge. Bread and stones were one thing (he’d soon be making bread but not this way, feeding thousands from practically nothing), but using this kind of ammunition from Psalm 91. That was fighting dirty. The words were so precious, so powerful. God looks after those he loves. He’ll protect them from harm and safety. The angels will catch them when they fall, the stones won’t dash them to pieces. A sign of God’s compassion. And here they were being twisted, like a scalpel being used to damage rather than heal.

‘Throw yourself off here, you can trust God, he’ll catch you. If he is your father, if he truly loves you.’

That was the essence of the message. And that hurt. He trusted his God, cared for him, and he trusted those words from Psalm 91. But if he resisted proving them, wasn’t it tantamount to disrespect? If he didn’t throw him down for the angels to catch and for God to protect, what then? Was he doubting his father’s love and protection? Wasn’t the very act of throwing himself off a sign of launching himself into God’s arms before he began his three year mission?

The words swam in his mind like disorientated fish. The phrases bumping against each other. Like missiles meeting across a battlefield and cancelling each other out. Little explosions rocking his world and shattering his confidence. He glanced down and for a moment he saw himself falling, and those angels, those guardians he knew so well, swooping in for a dramatic rescue. A statement of faith. He braced himself for the leap. Leant backward and pushed off. As he dived into the unknown those words repeated in his mind like a song with the kind of hook that stays with you all day. For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone. The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.”

His father loves him and this rescue will show it. He fell.

And then he opened his eyes. Looked down. His feet were still on the edge, on the very edge of the highest point of the temple complex, stones crumbling and falling away as his weight pressed on them. There was no need to jump. He would launch himself soon enough, and his father would be with him. But not like this. For a moment a shadow crossed his mind, would there be a time when his father would turn away? What if there was a day when the message of this psalm was upended, and his father would hold back for the sake of love? A day when he might be rejected, abandoned, totally alone, for the very purpose of his father’s love for others? The angels staying back, nothing to stop him being dashed on the rocks, for the sake of the planet, for the sake of other lives, for the sake of the cosmos. If so this decision, here today, this would only serve to strengthen his resolve. He wouldn’t test that love. He would trust it. A sudden fleeting glimpse exploded in his mind’s eye – the broken, the lost, the prisoners of darkness, a world falling apart and misused. He flinched at the sudden sound of a distant nail being hammered, not a carpentry nail, another kind. He shuddered and kicked at a nearby stone and pondered this. Then, whispering words from Deuteronomy, he stepped back from the edge and turned away.

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