I’m sticking with the story of Jesus in the wilderness for a few days. This is a story that has a lifetime’s worth of lessons; unlearning and relinquishing control being among the most important for me.

barren wildernessThe first “temptation” Jesus faced during his time of fasting and contemplation was the urge to turn stones into bread. He was depriving himself of the physical basics such as food in order to learn the spiritual essentials. After a few days he must have said to himself, “How am I going to great things in the world if I starve to death out here? And even if I survive, is anyone going to listen to me if I look like they are about to die?”

I once fasted for three days. I did it at the urging of a woman I saw as my spiritual mentor, and at a time in my life when I was considering some important changes in my life and career. From that experience and from shorter fasts since then, I recognized how much I use daily comforts to avoid conscious living.

I snack when I am bored. I play computer solitaire when I don’t want to seriously think about what I want to write. I watch mindless television to avoid making a conscious decision of how to spend my evening. Much of my day is filled with avoidant behaviors instead of conscious activity.

I am perpetually pulled through my day by the inner demand that I be productive. But in the absence of the stillness to clarify what that productiveness should look like, I settle for being busy, filling my time with avoidant behaviors that look productive. But they are behaviors and activities not consciously chosen, so they are not ultimately fulfilling.

Lent is about being conscious.