May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. Amen.
I would like to ask everyone to remember a time in their lives whether it be fifteen years ago or more recently when everything and everyone appeared to be moving at such a pace that it was hard to keep up. In my eighteen years on this earth, I ve found that the older I get, the harder it is to keep up with the pace of the culture. This has been especially true this year, my senior year; it s a fork in the road, during a time when we think we are old enough to be on our own, yet we still find ourselves under our parents supervision. For those of you who have finished high school, you may or may not remember the specifics, but no one forgets what it is like growing up and being caught in the middle stages. Between school, and sports, and friends, and family, the amount of work that we have as students, and adults for that matter, can be physically and mentally exhausting.
There are times in our lives when we feel like we have so much going on that we forget what is important. We only think about what we have to do, and forget about what we need. It is times like these that require us to find our true selves.
In today s Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and, immediately, he is driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit. It seems to be a necessary isolation, a time of separation in which Jesus must comes to terms with his role as the Messiah. During his forty-day fast, he resists the temptation by Satan to deny his true identity as the Savior of mankind in exchange for more immediate gratification.
Like Jesus, we have to ground ourselves in our faith to prepare for the ups and downs of our life journey. Sometimes we can do this by choice; other times, it is done for us. Jesus knew that he needed his wilderness experience to become the person that he needed to be. Little did I know that I too needed a wilderness experience until it appeared unexpectedly.
My senior year of high school had gotten off to a great start. I had just completed an unexpected season of cross country running, and I was feeling better than ever. I was on a senior high where I cared more about my friends and being on my own than I did about my family, my faith, and my health.
One weekend in November, my friends and I trekked to South side to a friend s house. I ll skip all the details and focus on a period of three minutes that changed my life completely. We had only been hanging out for an hour when, as a result of a trampoline accident, I found myself in shock and unable to move. I had torn my ACL, both my lateral and anterior meniscus, and I had hyper extended my anterior ligament. As I laid there on my back, all sounds and movements were blocked from my brain. I knew I had done something physically damaging to myself. All I could focus on was the silence that was surrounding me. It almost felt as if I were alone, and strangely I experienced only a sense of simplicity. I don t know exactly how to describe it or why I felt it it was a momentary sensation of peace that I hadn t felt in a long time.
When my friends realized that I had hurt myself they came and helped me to my car, because I was unable to walk. Realizing fully what I had done to myself, I called my parents frantically and let them in on the news. My dad s voice sounded stern, but I could hear how nervous he was. After a dear friend of mine literally carried me up to my doorstep. I saw my parents waiting in the living room for me. After I had told them what had happened, I was taken down to my room and put in bed. As I laid there, all I could think about was my friends being together, having a great time, while I was at home by myself. The fact that I was unable to leave my house the next day, unable to get in my car and go, was almost unfathomable.
The next few weeks were challenging, not just because I couldn t walk on my own, but because it was impossible for me to escape from the people who knew me best my family. I had become so detached from my home life in the previous months that I had grown to dislike it altogether. The physical slowing down was easier, mostly because it was impossible for me simply to go up the stairs, but the mental slowing down was torture. I don t know why it was so hard for me to be at home, but it was one of the most difficult times of my life.
Now, before I go any further, I want you all to know that it was not my parents fault that I felt this way. I had been selfish and unreasonable, despite the fact that my parents had done everything in their power to make me happy, to draw me back into the love of my family.
And here s the valuable lesson I learned in all of this. Even when we separate ourselves from the things that are fundmentally most important to us, even when we find ourselves alone in the wilderness, the love of God provides for us, sustains us, and draws us back to safety. When Jesus ventured out into the wilderness, temptation followed him in his isolation. He survived this time of trial by relying on his faith that God was with him. Despite my initial temptation to run back to the fast-paced culture I had enjoyed, I instead was granted a much-needed stillness and peace through the love of God shown to me through the care and attention of my family. This was a time for me to find my true self again. Not the girl I had created, but the girl that God had created. Not the girl that avoided her true safe place her home but the girl who appreciated it.
I do not see my recovery as mere physical therapy and learning how to walk again. This was my own wilderness, the time provided for me to re-center my life. The time in which I rebuilt my relationship with my parents. The time I rediscovered my faith in the things that matter. A time of rest to find and be found by God. I do not regret the things that I might have missed outside of my house during this period. I do, however, cherish the time I ve had with my mom, my dad, and my sister. My parents think that it s sad that it took an injury to keep me home, but say that they really got to know me during my recovery.
I believe there are times in our lives when we forget about our relationship with God. Even when we know we have strayed from that relationship, we sometimes find it hard to come back. But always, He will be there for us. God never leaves us. It is the distractions, the priorities, the work, the frantic pace of life that lead us away. Jesus needed to go into the wilderness to solidify his faith, to prepare himself for his ministry, to become fully the person that he needed to be. I can only hope that my own time in the wilderness can, in some small way, continue to shape who I am and who I am to become.