Reflection: "Mountain Tops and Wildernesses" by Ruth Calcott
45 years ago my husband and I were working at a mission hospital in Nigeria. We came home during that winter as our daughter was getting married. For me it was a very special occasion as it was my stepdaughter’s wedding and I had never thought I would be able to be ‘Mother of the Bride’ at a wedding. it was a wonderful experience going to the wedding in central London and to the reception in Knightsbridge. It was a highlight in my life.
A month later we found ourselves in a very different situation. We were returning to Nigeria but this time not by air but over land. A Land Rover ambulance had been donated to the mission and needed to be taken to Nigeria. We drove through France, took a long ferry across the Mediterranean to Algeria, and then across the Sahara desert. We reached the Nigerian border only to discover that there had been a coup and the border was closed. For 18 days we had to camp in the sand in no man’s land between Niger and Nigeria. From being at the mountaintop experience of the wedding we were now in the wilderness. Nothing but sand and rock, and certainly none of the luxurious shops of Knightsbridge. This is just like what had happened to Jesus in our Gospel reading today. Jesus had been baptised by John in the river Jordan and the Holy Spirit had come down like a dove and he had heard a voice saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased’. That was a mountain top experience for Jesus as he then began his ministry here on earth which would culminate in His death, resurrection and ascension. It would ultimately lead to the founding of the Christian church. But almost immediately he found himself in the wilderness facing challenges.
So often in life we find this to be true. Things seem to be going very well and then suddenly without warning we find ourselves going through a very difficult situation. Only 12 months ago we were living our normal lives and then suddenly we found ourselves in the first lockdown facing the trauma of the Covid virus. 12 months later we are in an even tougher lockdown. The future feels frightening, the path ahead is unknown, hope seems to have vanished and many are lonely and isolated. Many parents and carers are trying to hold down what is left of their jobs while home schooling at the same time. Children are becoming very frustrated. Many are facing mental health issues because of their situations. Almost everyone I see or hear of seems to be suffering in one way or another at the moment, at least some of the time. There is a lot of uncertainty and none of us know how the future will pan out for us. We need strength beyond ourselves to be able to cope from day to day.
When my husband and I were stuck in the desert, the main reading material we had was our Bibles and we found comfort and assurance as we read together.. When Jesus was challenged in the wilderness, He quoted words from Scripture to counteract what he was hearing. This is the season of Lent, and many people find a series of Bible readings or reflections to follow during this period. God’s word is part of the Christian’s armour to face tough times - the sword of the Spirit. The more we know it, the more we can use it.
Time in the wilderness is a testing time. God allows these times and they can become a period of spiritual growth for us. St Mark tells us that the angels ministered to Jesus. You may be aware of people who you might describe as angels who are helping you in practical ways. Or you may be aware of the still small voice of God whispering in your heart. Or something may speak to you as you read God’s word. We may also find that we are strengthened by our experiences along the way. God is with us today and every day whether we are on the mountain top or in the wilderness. We can get stronger knowing that Jesus is victorious and He is with us.
A friend sent me a song called ‘The Christian’s Daily Prayer’. You can use it as a prayer.
As sun gives way to darkest nightYour Spirit still is here;And though my strength fades like the lightNew mercies will appear.I rest in You, abide with meUntil our trials and sufferingGive way to final victory.Be glorified, today.Be glorified, I pray.