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a gate in a field


First Sunday in Lent

Beloved in the Wilderness

Genesis 9:8–17
Mark 1:9–15

by Paige Swaim-Presley

And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tested by Satan, and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.

Mark 1:11–13
Paige Swaim-Presley
Paige Swaim-Presley

At Jesus’ baptism, God proclaims that Jesus is God’s beloved child. And yet following this declaration, Jesus is driven out into the wilderness alone. We don’t know exactly what happens to Jesus next. Mark’s Gospel, unlike the more detailed versions in Matthew or Luke, only tells us that Jesus spent 40 days facing temptation, surrounded by danger and that the angels waited on him.

I appreciate the reserve of Mark’s temptation story. The lack of detail reminds me that in reality we rarely know the temptations, sorrows, and fears others are facing. My husband and I wanted a baby for eight years before we adopted our beloved daughter. During those years we told very few people about our painful journey. We often felt alone, surrounded by grief and uncertainty in a vast wilderness. I’m sure many people noticed the ways and days I wasn’t at my best. But they couldn’t know why, or how heavy a weight I was carrying.

Still, even in that wilderness, we experienced God’s care. Many people were messengers—angels—of grace to us. A handful of them knew about our struggle. Most did not! Any time someone showed me understanding when I fell short or care when I felt hopeless, I knew the Spirit was at work. I could remember then that I was God’s beloved child, and that I was never alone.

How many people around us are facing struggles of which we aren’t aware? How many people are facing their wilderness, experiencing pain we can’t imagine? Every interaction with our neighbors, whether we know their story or not, is an opportunity for us to be a messenger of God’s love and grace. A moment of unexpected, unconditional compassion can make a world of difference to someone in pain. May we each become ambassadors of Christ’s love in this hurting world!

Prayer: Loving God: You call each of us “beloved child.” Even in the wilderness, your Spirit is with us. Remind us of your love when we feel frightened or alone, that we might in turn show loving grace to all in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Paige Swaim-Presley is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church and mother to one wild and beloved daughter.

The photograph is from the 2024 Prayer Guide.

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