I love the wilderness. Many of you who know me already know this, but just in case it had moved to the back of your mind, let me remind you: I love the wilderness! It is where I find peace; it is where I find renewal; it is where I am, probably, most aware of being in relationship with the Divine.
But I also know that my love of the wilderness is not shared by everyone, nor is it always the renewing place I most easily describe. Oftentimes the wilderness is a place of challenge, peril and unpredictability. It represents all the ways in which we as humans have no real control over our surroundings (despite our efforts to tame it), and are not really at the top of all of existence like we enjoy thinking we are. True, when we stop romanticizing about the wilderness, we remember that it is probably the last place anyone would really want to travel to.
Which is why the season of Lent is so meaningful to me. We enter into Lent just as Jesus entered into the wilderness – not by taking a simple stroll, but by being driven by the Spirit, drawn in inevitably as if we had no choice. Just as Jesus took a time for fasting and prayer, so too do we find ourselves over the next several weeks journeying through the wilderness, facing all sorts of things that make our lives a little bit more difficult. Which, if this truly is the case, begs the question: Why? Why go into the wilderness (willingly or not) if this is all that will be awaiting us?
Because the answer is much more than the simple reality just described: It is in the wilderness that we encounter God.
Yes, we will encounter everything related in the first 9/10 of this post – the temptations, the challenges, the perils, the untamed wild, as well as peace, renewal, sense of being. But more so, encompassing all of this and beyond all of this, we will encounter God. For time immemorial, individuals and groups seeking a closer connection with God, and/or following the leading of the Spirit have gone into the wilderness. I won’t bother you here with all the details of such right now, but you can contact me if you’re interested in discussing it more. It truly is a passion and joy of mine.
I think it is more than apropos for us as YAVA to remember the wilderness, for we have all been there. Whether externally or internally, each of us has been to the wilderness as part of our experience, and at some point we have encountered God in it. Our experience and encounter are within us, and help shape who we are today, how we relate to others, how we continue in whatever call we have received. My prayer for you, as you again move through this season of Lent, is that you would remember the wilderness you have been through, and be mindful of encountering God again in the wilderness you approach. It may be an intimidating place, but it also the place which brings us closer to the Divine, and makes us ready for what will come next. Peace be with you, whatever may come.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?…”