A deeper journey
Let the silence deepen within you and around you. Remember that the silence is full of God’s loving voice. Ask him to tune your inner ear to hear His gentle whisper in these moments.
The Baptism of Jesus
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Feel the earth beneath your feet as you stand on the banks of the Jordan River. Breathe the cool air wafting up from the water. Wade into the river and stand with John and Jesus. Feel the weight of John’s burden as he puts his hands on Jesus and takes Him under the water. Hear the splashing of the river as it cascades off of Christ’s body.
Now pause and consider the next moment:
“Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased.’”
You may want to pause and journal or speak to Jesus as you stand with Him in the water.
The Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove, evoking images of parental gentleness and devoted attention. As we imagine a dove spreading wings of protection and blessing, we are hearkened back to the image in Genesis of the Spirit hovering over the waters, brooding like a mother hen on a nest. In Genesis, God declares, “Let there be light!” Here in the waters of the Jordan, we are reminded of the parental, fatherly, intimate, nurturing love of God hovering over Jesus. Then God speaks again, bursting out like a proud father:
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased!”
If the familiarity of these words causes them to be diminished in some way, perhaps the language of other translations might help them to sink in a bit further.
“You are my dearly-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (JB Phillips)
“You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” (The Message)
“You are my Son, my cherished one, and my greatest delight is in you!” (Passion)
The beauty of this burst of joy and delight, this blessing, is that it is not given to Jesus alone. It is given to you and to me. We hear it first in Genesis 1:31 when the Father bursts out the first time like a proud father over the son and daughter He had just created, “So good! Very good!” Then we hear His love for us declared over and over again throughout Scripture, and finally amplified so dramatically that it splits the heavens when Jesus comes up out of the water.
Open your soul to drink it in deeply before moving on.
Then something unexpected happens. Mark tells us, “At once” the same Spirit that hovered like a dove sent Jesus “out into the wilderness”.
Mark uses the word “driven” to describe Jesus heading to the desert. Matthew and Luke use the gentler word “led”. In the Message version, Eugene Peterson uses the word “push”: At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild.
The same Spirit who just alighted on Jesus in the river, now pushes Jesus into the wilderness.
Sometimes, we may be surprised by where God leads us, yet we are being led all the time. Even now, something led you to carve out time for A Deeper Journey during this season.
Sit with this question and listen to what arises. What led you here? What has been your experience of being led?
It offers a quieting of the voices that are competing for our attention so we can attune to the voice of Love. It offers a time to REMEMBER who we are and to Whom we belong.
In order for transformation to take place, however, we need more than a cognitive knowledge of God’s love as a concept. We need an experiential knowledge of God’s love, a knowledge that is deepened through persistent times of basking, soaking and lingering in this love until it becomes the foundation of our identity. Until we, too, are drenched.
This is how the Father prepares His Son for public ministry, with an extended time of remembering who He is and to whom He belongs. Soon enough the tempting whispers come, goading Jesus to prove who He is through dramatic displays of power or by putting His Father to the test. Yet the Son’s memory serves Him well, and He is set free to rest in His Father’s love and care.
As you find yourself led into these 40 days of reflection and remembering, are there any voices in your life competing for attention?
For all of Eugene’s books and teachings, he only had one message, a secret Leif said his dad let him in on early in his life. "For 50 years you’d steal into my room at night and whisper softly to my sleeping head. It's the same message over and over: 'God loves you. He's on your side. He's coming after you. He's relentless.'"
Let’s take some time to engage in a practice of receiving that love, whispered softly to our weary souls. One of the things we are coming to realize through the research of brain science is that the right hemisphere of the brain is dominant when it comes to character formation and transformation, yet we tend to focus on the left hemisphere when it comes to much of our engagement with God.
Allow your mind to recall or imagine being in a place you find to be comforting, peaceful and beautiful. Become aware of the presence of God with you. Take a few moments to notice God’s gaze as he looks at you with delight, kindness and joy.
Sit with and attune to God being attentive to you for as long as you’d like. Pay attention to what it feels like to see God seeing you.
Take some time to reflect on or journal about what you sensed, felt and thought. What images or impressions were brought to the surface?
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” — Psalm 131:2 (ESV)
Henri Nouwen tells us that “Solitude is listening to the voice that calls you the Beloved. It is being alone with the One who says, ‘You are my Beloved, I want to be with you. Don’t go running around, don’t start to prove to everybody that you’re beloved. You are already beloved.’ That is what God says to us. Solitude is the place where we go in order to hear the truth about ourselves. It asks us to let go of the other ways of proving.”
Often times when we try to enter into solitude, the first thing we notice is our own internal restlessness.
What has your experience been of this sense of restlessness? What helps you to calm and quiet your soul as you rest in God’s presence? What helps you to lean in and listen to God’s gentle voice?
“Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called ‘children of God’— and that is not just what we are called, but what we are.” — 1 John 3:1
Take a few moments to read the following poem by Jan Richardson:
As you read this poem, what words or phrases are you personally drawn to? How does this word or phrase connect with your life today?
If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.
Do not leave
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.
I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from the scorching
or the fall
of the night.
But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.
I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.
I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
whisper our name:
“Gaining hope, I remember and wait for this thought: How enduring is God’s loyal love; the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion. Here they are, every morning, new! Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day. “ — Lamentations 3:21-23 (The Voice)
Take some time to recall and remember specific words, messages and Scripture passages that have spoken directly to you of God’s love TOWARD you over the years. Begin with the first memories you have of God’s love and move throughout the seasons of your life. Record as many words, phrases, verses and passages as you can remember that specifically stand out as you look back. You will use what you have recorded for something in tomorrow’s reflection.
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” — Psalm 63:5-8
From the words and phrases that you gathered yesterday, take some time to create a blessing from God over you. Let Him speak to you through the words you write on a page. Consider making this blessing visible in some way so that you can keep it in front of you and return to it throughout your day.
“You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me, and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder. It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out; the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it. Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit? Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence? If I go up into heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there. If I ride on the wings of morning, if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean, Even then You will be there to guide me; Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there. Even if I am afraid and think to myself, ‘There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me, the light around me will soon be turned to night,’ You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes. For You the night is just as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.” — Psalm 139:5-12 (The Voice)
Be attentive to and notice God’s expressions of love all around you as you move through your day.
Perhaps you could go on a contemplative walk or simply spend some time outside. As you go, keep your eyes and heart open to see where God’s love might reveal itself to you in your ordinary encounters. Where do you discover evidence of God’s unfailing love? You may want to make a list of the beauty and goodness you noticed. If you are drawn to, sketch or paint something that caught your attention.
“There is no need to plead that the love of God shall fill our hearts as though He were unwilling to fill us. . . . Love is pressing around us on all sides like air. Cease to resist it and instantly love takes possession.” — Amy Carmichael
Consider this poem:
“Laughter Came From Every Brick”
by St. Teresa of Avila.
Just these two words He spoke changed my life,
What a burden I thought I was to carry— a crucifix, as did He.
Love once said to me, “I know a song, would you like to hear it?”
And laughter came from every brick in the street and from every pore in the sky.
After a night of prayer,
He changed my life when He sang,
Revisit anything that especially caught your attention or stood out to you communicating the love of God to you personally and directly from this past week. Allow it to speak to you again. Let those reminders settle in more deeply as you contemplate them further.
“And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!” — Ephesians 3:17-19 (JB Phillips)
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