Posted: 24 Feb 2012 11:30 AM PST
"He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him" (Mark 1:13).
I live in a wilderness of sorts. It's a human-made wilderness called New York City. Some people may not consider a vibrant metropolis packed with eight million inhabitants a wilderness, but from my windows I have a view for many miles, and I don't see a single tree or a hint of green anywhere. It's a steel and concrete wilderness, and I've lived here for forty years, not forty days.
Satan is here as well, in many incarnations. Temptations abound everywhere you turn. As for wild beasts, you need only to attend a Yankees game (especially if they're playing the Boston Red Sox).
I have no idea what it was like in the wilderness where Jesus was driven, but if it was hard and lonely, filled with anxiety, defeat, and depression, then it would not be unlike my home island of Manhattan.
In order to survive in this wilderness, I learned a long time ago to keep my guard up at all times. I developed an "act," which was my armor to protect me from the wild beasts who might take advantage. I learned to be tough, to make it on my own. I didn't trust anyone, not even those who expressed love toward me. I became hard, cold, and indifferent.
I was completely unaware that there were angels here, waiting on me, just as they did for Jesus. Then I found my church. For the first time I met many New York angels. They didn't have wings or halos. They were everyday, ordinary, extraordinary folks, of every nationality, age, gender, and background, all sharing a common goal: to love one another as Christ did. I realized that beneath a New Yorker's impenetrable armor could lie the heart and soul of a loving angel.
These angels are what make a wilderness survivable. They've helped me wrestle my demons. They've prayed for me when I was sick and frightened. They teach me by their example: offering help to the helpless, directions to the lost, light for the bewildered, hope to those in despair, and a warm welcome to everyone. I think it would be impossible to survive in New York, or any wilderness, without these remarkable angels.
Perhaps your wilderness is not a big city. Perhaps it's a boring rural area with nothing to do, or a mind-numbing job with no future. Or a broken family. Or depression, addiction, poverty, disease. These are all wildernesses where one can get lost, feel alone, be tempted by Satan, and battle "wild beasts." Always remember that there are angels waiting on you. You may not recognize them at first, but they are there for you just as they were for me and for Jesus. Let go of your defenses, trust them, and your wilderness (and your life) will be transformed.
Robert Romagnoli, member of Marble Collegiate