Perhaps we had thought that God was after us, trying to catch us, watching from far off to see if we would mess up. But perhaps we got it wrong. God in Christ is never that far away, he’s with us; he has come to share unreservedly in all that we go through. He is always able to empathize with us in our weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way that as we are, yet without sinning. He has taken upon himself all that we are. It’s who he is. He’s not far away spying on us; he’s down here with us in the mess, accompanying us, even in the confusion of our temptations.
Jesus' will was always to do the will of him who sent him. Yet incredibly he was tempted to do otherwise. Like us in all things but sin; he knows the reality of what it means to be pulled in the wrong direction. So much does Jesus love us, that our temptation to sin has become his temptation. And by identifying with us down there, Jesus has paved the way for us to share the righteousness that characterizes God himself, “so that in him we might become the very holiness of God."
Some years ago in the flush of new fervor, a love for Christ I had never before experienced, I think I felt a bit rarefied and somewhat above the common fray. I remember one afternoon a temptation sneaking in, softly, suddenly, insistently. I was embarrassed, lost my balance. Imagine feeling such things again; I was supposed to be way beyond that now. And as I tried to pray through it, I sensed Jesus somehow saying to me, very quietly but definitely, “Would you be less than I am?” “Would you be less than I am?” which is to say, “I went through all of these things, I was tempted in every way as you are, I am, I will be with you, in you, through all of it. Trust me, rely on me alone. Don’t you want to be like me?”
Our weaknesses, our temptations are a place of encounter with Christ. Down there we have the blessed opportunity to depend on him alone, to cry out in our helplessness and flee to him for refuge, hide in him. Then he can save us, for his power is always completed in our weakness.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.