Jesus, James Nayer and I have a couple things in common. First, each of us have been called by God to reveal and reflect back God’s nature. Second, we have been tempted.
Jesus’ temptation is described in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. The passage in Mark reads:
And right away the spirit drives him out into the wilderness, where he remained for forty days, being put to the test by Satan. While he was living there among the wild animals, the heavenly messengers looked after him. (Mark 1:12-13 SV)
I understand this text more than I’d like to admit. After allowing myself to live into who God meant for me to be, I found myself in a desolate place. A place that I did not want to go. While I am more content to be there than I used to be, a recent experience forced me to admit that I have not yet been in the wilderness forty days. I am still being tested by Satan.
I experience Satan as ‘the Sifter.’ Again and again and again, Satan presents me with situations within which I am required to make a choice. What I choose determines whether I will leave ‘the Way’ or stay on it. Usually, I make the right choice. But sometimes I don’t. Then, the plant of God in me withers, while the plant of the world gets nourished.
I have become familiar enough with this plant of misdirected desires to know where its roots lie. So, when I see its leaves, I am enabled to pull up more of its root. (And, every time, I convince myself that ‘this time’ I’ve gotten what remained the previous time.)
I am comforted by the presence of our wise and sensitive Friend, James Nayler. While he wrote eloquently in “The Lamb’s War” about how people are captivated and deceived, falling prey to the god of the world, he himself fell into the grips of Satan, whom he refers to as ‘the destroyer of Life.’
After finding that his choice to reenact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was due to temptation rather than an action desired by God, James Nayler confesses in “To the Life of God in All”:
I possessed afresh the iniquities of my youth, and that which had of old been buried, arose and stood against me, and so the temple was filled with darkness and the power of death, and my heart with sorrow, and Satan daily at my right hand to tempt me further to provoke the Lord, and to take away my life.
A week ago or so, like Nayler, I came across “the iniquities of my youth.” I thought I was being like Jesus. I had been listening to a person tell me about how he, a marginalized person, had been treated. I was listening in an open and compassionate way, embodying what I thought was the love of God. However, after some reflection on the conversation, I became aware that I was recreating an event that had first occurred when I was a child. In that situation, just when I thought I was about to have fun, I was manipulated.
Every now and again, I am presented with a situation and/or person that triggers that event. Unconsciously, I start to recreate it. Soon I realize that I have gotten drawn into a relationship that is not healthy for me. The person I am relating to does not have my interests in mind but has deep unmet needs that he is going to try to get resolved through me. Once I realize it, I disentangle myself from the relationship, so I can redirect my desire for connection toward God.
I hate the feelings that come when I find I have been blind. But I’ve also learned, with Light enough, that Satan is giving me a chance to do better, to not do what he did when he was still Lucifer. I renew my commitment to rely on God fully, as my falling reminds me that God’s guidance is better than self-reliance.
Knowing that Jesus and James Nayer were tempted, I feel I am in good company. Satan tempts those who want to be adopted by God. Those who desire to find a home that is not in the world.
Reflecting on James Nayler’s life and ministry has taught me a couple of good lessons. First, I’ve learned that I cannot be Jesus; I can’t even pretend to be. (In particular, I am much too privileged!) Second, I need to be diligent as I wait, alert at all times. When I look to other people rather than God to guide my life, I fall into a trap. Finally, I have discovered that the best I can do is to become myself. Jesus did a good job of being Jesus. Friends needed James Nayler to be James Nayler. In the end, he became one of our saints. So, once I accept I will not become Jesus, I can more openly strive to become acquainted with Christ, the one who guides me to be me.
While traditional Christianity portrays that we are to become like Jesus, it’s sufficiently difficult for me to become myself. I must travel the path that is mine to travel, as I get Light by which to see it. So far, the holy messengers have kept me safe, out of the clutches of the wild animals. I pray that they will continue to protect me, as I have a tendency to veer off my path.