Biography, Pondering

Welcome to the Wilderness

Even though I love nature, I’m not much of a camper.  I still remember the night when I was about eight, lying in a tent in a “beautiful” site we had procured rather late in the day somewhere in the Rockies …only to discover the site had not been previously taken for an excellent reason: trains nearly rolled over our heads all night long.  That experience sealed off camping for me.  I don’t need a Hilton, but I do want a clean Day’s Inn…preferably not near the railroad tracks. 

When the Spirit “immediately” sends a damp Jesus camping in the first chapter of Mark, we are told little about his accommodations, but a lot about his companions—he is tempted by Satan, makes peace with the wild animals and is ministered to by angels.         

By the time he returns to Galilee the wilderness has become a familiar place. And so by the end of chapter one, when Jesus is already unable to get into town, he remains in the desolate places and the people come and find him there.  It’s not exactly the kind of hospitality I associate with God’s people. I haven’t seen any church billboards that read “Come on out. Welcome to our wilderness.”  Yet I can’t get past this first chapter of Mark.  That is exactly what Jesus seems to do. 

What would happen if I actually made peace with the wilderness seasons in my life—not fighting to get to the nearest spiritual Hilton, but actually settling down on a stone for awhile—ready for an adventure, not a mere endurance test?  The wilderness is where I am going to learn how to fight the accuser from within my inherited posture in “the man” who refuses to live by bread alone. Here is where I will learn to make peace with the wild things I so fear because I cannot control them. Who knows? I might even receive the ministry of those angelic beings who only seem to make themselves conspicuous when no other help is available. 

And best of all, if I make peace with the wilderness into which I am driven, I may just find myself at the end of the chapter being at home enough there to invite others to join me as they are learning to navigate in the midst of their own desolate places.  “Welcome to the wilderness” may not be the first sign I want to hang on the door of my house or our church.  But it may well be one of the most needed ones. 

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