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“9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:9-13)

What possessed Jesus to go to the wilderness to be tempted? Where did he get the courage to do such an uncomfortable thing? I’ll suggest it was an experience of the Father’s love and the Spirit’s presence at his baptism.

That moment in the Jordan must have been a moment of clarity for Jesus. God knew there were difficult tasks ahead so he gave Jesus 2 big “tools” for his tool belt. These two truths would carry him through the desert, through his ministry, and to the cross.

1.    The Spirit is with me, leading and empowering me.
2.   The Father loves me. I’m his son. And he’s proud of me.

So compelled by the Spirit’s presence and the Father’s love he went willingly into the desert, into hunger, deprivation, and temptation. Notice who’s in the desert? Angels, animals, the Holy Spirit, and the Devil. Notice who’s NOT there? People. I think Jesus went to the desert not just to say “no” to Satan and get clarity on his mission. I think he spent that time apart from civilization, apart from food, apart from human relationships, to learn how to rely on the Spirit and engage with spiritual realities around him. I think it was HERE in this place of total vulnerability that Jesus grew deeper into this “oneness”, this intimacy with the Father.

When I personally experience the Father’s love and the Holy Spirit’s active presence in my life, THEN I gain the power to do the scariest things imaginable. It’s not a pep talk or a kick in the pants or a biblical education that gives me courage. It’s a deep unshakeable knowledge that Daddy loves me and that His Presence is with me, that my life is no accident and that I am no orphan. When I can learn to HEAR the Father’s acceptance, and SEE the Spirit, that’s when I gain the courage to be vulnerable and to rely on Him every day.

This is changing the way I think about parenting. It’s tempting to focus on behavior modification or “winning battles” or protecting my kids or fostering their independence as the stuff that will help my children become courageous adults. But I’m beginning to see that it starts at a much deeper level. Before I do anything else as a parent I need my kids to know two things:

1.    I love you. I’m proud of you. You are MY child.
2.   Your life is no accident. You have great purpose.

We’re currently deciding whether to send our daughter to public or private school. Debra had an excellent experience in a small Christian school where she experienced a feeling of acceptance and belonging. The last thing we’d want for our 4-year-old is for her to be in a classroom (public OR private) where she feels she doesn’t belong or isn’t accepted. Given my daughter’s sensitivity to shame and rejection, we feel pressure to make the right decision from the get-go.

But as I look back on my childhood and think of MY most painful experiences with rejection, I’m realizing something profound. If I had felt comfortable enough to fall in my father’s arms, to embrace my mother’s acceptance, to grow deep in the knowledge that I have a place of nurture and love and belonging… then I could have dealt with those painful experiences with grace and courage. My parents are kind and caring people who sought to instill in me a sense of love and belonging. But no parent is perfect and I needed to make the choice to trust in their care.

So as I parent MY kids, my focus isn’t on keeping them from challenging or painful situations. My focus is on ensuring that every challenging or painful situation in their life is matched by countless experiences which show them that they are loved, that I am emotionally present for them, that they have a place in their father’s heart and in their father’s arms.

If you’re still reading this, I want you to listen to this. It has become the fodder of endless conversation in our house:
http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

Researcher Brenee Brown nails it on the head. In this 20-minute talk, she discusses her research into what gives people the courage to live whole-hearted lives full of risk and vulnerability (or faith, if you like). She basically says that the courage to be vulnerable, to “risk it” with the people and situations in our lives, comes from an innate belief that one’s love and belonging are never on the line. Even if our endeavors fail, WE cannot become failures. Even if our relationships go south, we believe that we are worthy of receiving love. And that belief beyond anything else is what makes us brave.

I think the secret to Jesus’ obedience, his courage, his authoritative confidence, his willingness to do ANYTHING, stemmed from that moment in the Jordan, and other moments throughout his life when he could SEE the Spirit and HEAR the Father. Likewise, in our pursuit of maturity, in our passion to get “unstuck” and grow deeper in God, I think that’s where our focus should be: experiencing the Father’s love… and understanding the Spirit’s presence and purpose in our lives.

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