Feb 13, 2013

Posted by in New poetry | 38 Comments

Temptation in the Wired Wilderness: A Sonnet for Lent


The season of Lent is, in the Church, a time for prayer and fasting. Giving up something that is in itself good or harmless (like abstaining from meat on Fridays, or giving up a favorite food or activity) is a way of learning how to be disciplined in the spiritual life, of recognizing our own weakness and distraction, and of becoming stronger in our faith. We will be better able to resist temptation to sin if we have learned now to say ‘no’ to our desires in the safe training ground of Lenten fasting.

And temptations will come – but often not as expected. As I reflected on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, I was drawn more and more to think about the setting, not just the content of the temptations (for a set of really excellent sonnets that take on the latter challenge, read Malcolm Guite’s sonnet sequence “Sounding the Seasons,” now out from Canterbury Press).

When I think about the ‘wilderness’ today, even the desert, it’s likely to be in the context of a vacation trip to see beautiful scenery, not a place of desperate struggle with the spiritual forces of the Enemy. Rather, our wilderness is likely to be internal – or virtual.

Here is my sonnet on that theme. You can click on the title of the poem to hear my reading of it as well.

Temptation in the Wired Wilderness

Our Lord spent forty days and forty nights
Resisting Satan in the wilderness.
We picture barren rocks and sand; we might
Add in a scrubby tree or two. I guess
That’s where temptation ought to come, so we
Can see it from at least a mile away,
And be prepared, with Bibles, church retreats,
And exhortations to stand firm.
Instead it wounds with cuts too small to see,
In this our wired wilderness. We play
And work in deserts of the digital:
Abuzz with locust-noise of clicks and tweets
And filled with lonely crowds. Our enemy
Is faced and fought right here, or not at all.

This poem has appeared in God and Nature Magazine.

Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

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  1. I am encouraged by your sonnet to face and fight. Thank you.

  2. Garret Johnson says:

    This is a wonderful sonnet!

    “It wounds with cuts too small to see”–what a great image for the unique way our wired world can act on us.

  3. Holly Ordway says:

    Thanks, Garret! That’s part of what I was trying to get at, here… it’s so much easier to be on the lookout for the big temptations, the big problems, and thereby be distracted from the way that the smallest things can have a big effect, like drops of water wearing away a rock. And all the more so with media, which is ephemeral.

  4. Hello Holly,

    I like your sonnet. Are you familiar with the works of the Puritans? I am finishing up a sermon series on spiritual warfare using the book “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” by Thomas Brooks. You can find Puritan books at Banner of Truth Trust. The language of the Puritans may be out of date, but I find what they have to say so profound. It’s much better than the one-dimension junk we often find on the Christian bookstore shelves today.
    Grace, Darkhill

    • Holly Ordway says:

      Thanks, Darkhill. My field is English, not American, literature, but I have a moderate familiarity with Puritan writing. As a rule I don’t find them to be quite my thing, but I’ve read some good work. I have, or had, somewhere a book of Puritan prayers called “Valley of Vision” that was pretty good.

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