I suppose it's awfully clever of the enemy to twist the truth just enough that we believe a lie: "Eat the fruit and be like God." Well, except they were bearing the image of God and so like him already. Other times though, the enemy is less clever and tells a lie straight out: "You shall not surely die." The trick is not necessarily to discern when he's lying and when he's playing with matters of gray nebulosity (because either way, he's still the enemy and wants nothing good for our lives), but to feast on the truth enough that you can spot the lie or the kinda lie when it comes.
I have struggled to feast on the truth this year. In the void of hearing truth, though, a myriad of lies and mushy grey matter took up residence in my heart and mind. It's not as though I didn't want the truth, though, hear me: I have never been more thirsty for truth, truth-tellers, and truth-livers than almost any time in my life. I have never felt more alone in my life than I have this year.
It hurts to say that because I fear you'll begin to pity me or, if you're local, try to figure out what you did wrong, or more likely, what I did wrong. But I want to take that load off all our shoulders: God, in his goodness and sovereignty, brought me out to a desert place, to woo and win some untouched parts of my heart—parts that could not be touched when I had a plethora of friends, ministries, partners, and duties. He brought me to a place of lack to teach me about his plenty. It wasn't your place, or mine, to bring me out or through that. I've learned it more deeply this year than I can say.
Sometimes it's easy to spot the lies of the enemy and the half-truths he weasels into our everydaying. I have always thought those lies and half-truths would find themselves more present in the desert and gone amidst the safety of counselors, accountability, community, and friendship. And I was right in some ways, I've had to do business with those lies and half-truths in ways I never had the time, energy, or vulnerability with my own self to confront them before. But I was wrong in other ways: those lies were always there, even when I was around others constantly, they just didn't have room to bloom and show themselves to be the falsehoods they really were.
We're about to begin a season of Lent in a few weeks and I'm reminded of the 40 days Jesus was in the desert, just him and the enemy. It was awfully quiet out there and the voice of the enemy had his time to shine in that aching void, but Jesus, sweet Jesus, crushed his few minutes of fame with the word of God and good theology. I suppose even in the void of the feast I wanted this year, I have been grateful for the feasts of the past that sustained me through it.
An understanding of suffering. A willingness to be weak and to be vulnerable with hurt. Rock solid good theology. A love of the Word of God. A love for the local church. The attributes of God. These sustained me. They still sustain me.
I heard the lies aplenty this year, but my food is to do the will of Christ and that is first, to believe what He says. Every word. There is no gray in the garden and there is no gray in the desert. In both, He is present, faithful, enduring, and near.