Forty days is a long time to spend wandering in a rocky, dusty wilderness, especially without food. Lots of time for thinking, praying, listening, walking, resting, trying to sleep. It was hard for the tanned and sweaty man not to think about the gnawing hunger and thirst inside. Then there were the moments of temptation and taunting from the enemy, so artfully crafting arguments to try to persuade Him to abandon his true purpose, even His true identity. Would he be able to keep his weakening heart and tired eyes focused on obedience and perseverance to complete this time of solitude, to be honed and made more ready for what was coming? He had God’s Word, He WAS God’s Word and the enemy was no match for that or for Him. Even so, heading into the wilderness and surviving its lessons and temptations, Jesus was alone.
Once he began teaching and performing miracles, the people couldn’t get enough of Him. He would teach, heal and love all day, get in a boat with his disciples, arrive at a different place only to see a sea of smiling, eager faces of those who wanted to hear him teach, to have his attention, to feel his healing touch. Reading about his compassion even when he must have been physically exhausted always amazes me. No wonder Jesus often got up early before the sun even came up, and went off somewhere by himself. That time of quiet prayer with God must have been refreshing, even imperative.
Living life with the men He called to follow Him for three years, journeying from town to town, sleeping in others’ homes or outside under the stars, or even by the sea, interacting with hundreds of people in crowds everyday, must have been wonderful, tiring, rewarding, and disappointing all at the same time. There must have been times when he would pause from teaching to look into the bewildered eyes of his friends and disciples, seeing that they didn’t really understand what He was saying or who He really was. In those times, I think He felt alone. To be surrounded by people who love you but don’t really know you can be lonely – when you’re with friends who don’t really get what you’re trying to say, who don’t see the whole reason for your existence or life’s work. How great it would have felt if Jesus taught something and then saw the light come on in his disciples’ eyes showing they truly understood. Yes! We’re on the same page!
When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane one night, some of his friends went along to pray with him but couldn’t keep from falling asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt when he walked back to where they were time after time to find them snoring, unaware of the overwhelming emotions closing in on him, not keeping their word to be supportive or to help pray. In moments they would all run away and leave him as He was arrested, leaving him alone in every way.
I know Jesus was never really alone in these times. God was there. Angels came to minister to him in the garden that night, maybe their comfort helped give him strength to face the torture of the cross. There was a moment, however, when Jesus was utterly and completely alone: when He took all our sin upon Himself as He hung dying and God turned His face away. For the first time Jesus felt total separation from God. Surely that is what really broke his heart and took his life. We would experience that very thing if He hadn’t finished what He started, if He hadn’t kept on going through fun times, frustrating times, times with lots of friends, times of exhaustion, times of being misunderstood, and times of loneliness.
I’ve had lots of times in life when I’ve felt alone: sometimes even in a big bunch of friends, sometimes when I feel misunderstood, sometimes when I’ve allowed myself to fall back away from God on this path. We all have alone times. There are times when I’ve been with lots of people or company and actually long for some time alone. It can be wonderfully healing, replenishing emotional, physical and even spiritual strength and energy.
I’ve had quite a bit of alone time lately and it’s getting a little old at this point. Lately I’ve wished more often that my sister lived here or my mom, so I could call them to meet me for lunch or drive around and visit. We talk on the phone and through email but there’s something different about having someone actually with me that I long for. Now that we’re between churches, jobs and such I feel odd, like I’m not really belonging anywhere. We still have friends here but I knew it would be different and that’s okay – it’s supposed to be. For this journey toward the cross with Jesus I decided to give up my time on facebook and today I’m really missing it! For some silly reason it made me feel connected to friends – as if we were all in a big room, looking at each other, bantering, showing photos, laughing, sharing what’s going on in each of our lives, praying for each other, etc.
Maybe God wants to teach me something in this time of increased solitude. When I’m longing for someone, I need to call on Him. Even though He’s not a physical person here, I know He’s with me. I see Him in the eyes of a friend who I happen to see during the day. I hear him in the voice of a friend on the phone who pauses to pray with me right then and there. I felt Him in the warmth of the sun through my car windows today. I sense Him inviting me, as my sister often phrases it, to something – maybe knowing Him more? That would be just what I’ve prayed for. Maybe learning the discipline of quiet and focus on Him and His Word and less on myself? That would be an answer to prayer, too. Perhaps honing, shaping and changing me, making me more ready to be fruitful for His sake? Maybe a better awareness of what it was like for Jesus to walk this road. I hope so.
God said He would go with me to lunch now, so I’ll let you know.