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Into the Wilderness

Discernment is, in part, a journey into fear where we confront limiting beliefs. The wilderness of the Lenten season makes this clear. This is my latest letter to the people of University Baptist Church of Austin

Into the Wilderness

Photo by Daniel Pryfogle

Dear Church:

We step now into Lent. As with Jesus, our path leads into the wilderness. This is dangerous terrain because the way is uncertain and the landscape is unknown except for the fears we project upon it. This is the path of discernment for us as individuals and a congregation.

We enter Lent carrying pieces of an emerging vision for our life together, while knowing the question of leadership hangs over us plus a timeline to make decisions. The greatest challenge now will be to dwell in the wilderness, to sit amid anxiety, to notice our fears that multiply like dust and rise as wraiths. If we are honest, we know we cannot control the wilderness, and it terrifies us.

Limiting beliefs heighten our anxiety in this time. The beliefs trap us in old thinking and old habits. Their power derives from the seductiveness of familiarity, which offers a kind of comfort. We may conclude it’s better to cling to what we know than to venture into the unknown. So the beliefs block us from possibility. They block us from fulfillment of who we are called to be individually and collectively.

That’s why our Lenten theme is “Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs.” We will engage five beliefs that Parker Palmer outlines in his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation: (1) the belief that we are not worthy; (2) the belief that the world is a battleground; (3) the belief that anything good in this world depends on our making it happen; (4) the belief that we can control chaos; and (5) the belief that we can deny death. Each Sunday over the next five weeks we will take up one limiting belief and counter it with the good news of another way. In Sunday School we will learn about spiritual practices that help us let go. 

This is our Lenten journey. Though we will struggle as Jesus did in the wilderness, though we will wrestle with what Parker Palmer calls “shadow-casting monsters,” our conviction is the journey is necessary, and worthwhile. By God’s grace, we have traveling companions. So let us walk together into the wilderness.