Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most influential preachers of our time. She is an American Episcopal priest, author, and professor. She has a way with words that makes you confront your own truths, and start to see things very differently then you did before. Some of her sermons on the season of lent do just that. The following is an excerpt from her lenten sermon, “The Wilderness Exam:”
The problem for most of us is that we cannot go straight from setting down the cell phone to hearing the still, small voice of God in the wilderness. If it worked like that, churches would be full and Verizon would be out of business. If it worked like that, Lent would only be about twenty minutes long.
What we have instead are forty whole days for finding out what life is like without the usual painkillers, which is how most of us learn what led us to use them in the first place. Once you take the headphones off, silence can be really loud. Once you turn off the television, a night can get really long. After a while you can start thinking that all of this quiet emptiness or, worst case, all this howling wilderness, is a sign of things gone badly wrong: devil on the loose, huge temptations, no help from the audience, God gone AWOL–not to mention your own spiritual insufficiency to deal with any of these things.
But if you remember to breathe–and say your prayers–then nine times out of ten you can make it through your first night with no extra bread, power, or protection. You can get used to the sound of your own heart beating and whatever it is that is yipping out there. You may even be able to sleep a little while and wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being. So there are thirty-nine days to go. So don’t count. Take it one day at a time.
BBT makes a really good point here. There are so many things in our life that we use to just fill up the silence…to fill up the time and the spaces that scare us. We think that we could not live without it, whatever it may be. The tv. The phone. The app. We think that we could not live without it, but we are wrong. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus spends 40 days without food because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.
This week, when you think you can’t make it without that thing you gave up. When you think you need to fill all your time with sound. Stop and re-read these words from BBT. “Breathe and say your prayers.” You may like how it feels to slow down and make room for the Holy Spirit. “Take it one day at a time.” You make like how it feels to check in with yourself and with God every single day–no exceptions. “You may even wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being.”