Well, I'm just having some difficulty focusing on Lent, right now. See, it's Valentine's Day today and, for a gift, my love made me my favourite kind of cupcakes. That might not sound all that impressive unless you knew how much the kitchen is not her friend - I do the cooking (mostly). So she made me cupcakes. And, bonus, they're delicious.
If only someone had made Charlie Brown some cupcakes. I'm a big fan of the Peanuts cartoon, but the Valentine's Day story always bothered me. Charlie Brown doesn't get any valentines. He waits at the mailbox. Nothing. He brings a briefcase to school to carry them all home. Nothing. The next day he gets a used one because some of the girls felt guilty. Sad. All those expectations. Crushed. And that's only one thread of the story. Linus is disappointed to find out the teacher he loves has a boyfriend and Sally's love for Linus once again goes unrequited. It's almost like Charlie Brown's lost in a wilderness with no love.
Or, at least, a wilderness where love is represented by a piece of coloured paper with a few hearts and some poetry. Charlie Brown seems to be missing the love, friendship and care of his sister, his family and his best friend Linus, among others. If only someone had made him cupcakes, maybe. But, as Linus has said to him before, "of all the Charlie Browns, you're the Charlie Browniest."
Jesus, the gospels tell us, went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. Each of the temptations isn't just refused, but refuted. Nor does Jesus lash out at his tempter. It's as if Jesus has some inner strength. He does: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness" (Luke 4:1). Jesus is aware of God's love and grace present in this moment as much as any other, present in the wilderness as much as in companionship, present in moments of trial as much as comfort, present in moments of conflict as much as peace.
I think we, like Charlie Brown, can sometimes find ourselves wondering if we live in a loveless and graceless wilderness because we, human beings that we are, have valued, expected and judged and been disappointed. This wilderness of our making isn't a place we've sought for solitude, thought and prayer to bring us closer to God, it's a place distant from God where we've given into those temptations that lead to our disappointment, even fear and anger.
This Lent, I'd like to take on the wilderness experience of Jesus, a wilderness where I may reflect and discover more about my relationship with God and with others by resisting the temptation to assume, to expect and to judge. I'd like to take on the kind of wilderness where we can be free to discover, knowing that God's love and grace is in every moment, waiting to be embraced.
Care to join me and see who can be the least Charlie Browniest?