This is a sonnet about what I imagine was the fourth temptation of Christ in the wilderness in Luke 4:1-13. Granted there are only three interaction with the devil, but the forth is really the temptation which preceded those temptations.
Forty days alone, fasting in the desert was not merely hard because of the not eating, but even more so by the loneliness and boredom. Anyone may find that forty minutes alone with their thoughts to be hard enough, but forty days? Most of us can’t even go forty minutes without looking at a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen. Our fear of boredom and the distractions we employ to avoid it are slowly making us more lonely and anxious.
Ivan Kramskoy’s painting, Christ in the Wilderness, brilliantly imagines what Jesus’ struggle may have been like: the boredom, the loneliness, and the mental struggle to keep on, and his painting was the starting point of this poem. What passed through Jesus’ mind during his time in the wilderness? What did he focus upon? What strengthened and encouraged him in the midst of the trial? In this sonnet I imagine Jesus in the wilderness remembering the events of his baptism which preceded his being driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. How did his baptism help him? And after having finished the trauma of that trial, why did he later in ministry, seek out the quiet of a solitary place? Granted he went to pray, be strengthened, gather his thoughts, but could it have also been to recapture the clarity and preciousness of the nearness and love the Father in the midst of the trial in order to stay and strengthen him for what was coming?
And what of us when left alone? Do we seek out solitude to be strengthened? Or do we avoid it at all costs? Does our addiction to connectivity actually screen us from the intimacy and love for which we long?
If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
Forty days with the wild beasts alone
And the mind’s chatter of words and fear,
Waiting in silence, no company but his own
With only the memory of the clear
Water running off his cheek, dripping from hair,
When the Spirit descended as a dove to alight
How The Voice thundered, split the air,
“You are my beloved son in whom I delight.”
What did he in that boring waste learn
That he would later seek solitude to pray?
Was it to hear again, in memory return,
Bathe in the blessing of what his Father did say?
How can I hear that word, the blessing from above
When I’m screened from solitude, intimacy, and love?
© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks
Artwork: Christ in the Wilderness, by Ivan Kramskoy, Google Cultural Institute.jpg, Created: 31 December 1871