The wilderness. A place far away. The wilderness of the soul. The wilderness of relationship. The wilderness of being. A place where all senses are both parched, starved and then finally, restored.
I’ve been pondering times when I, and those around me have been in the wilderness. When ones I’ve loved have been far away – either physically, mentally, relationally or spiritually. Times when no amount of reaching out could save them from the scorched earth they have found themselves in.
History is littered with times of people who have had wilderness experiences. Some are self-imposed, some are enforced by outside forces. I think of Joseph, head filled with dreams and promises, sold as a slave. I think of Moses, wondering around the Middle Eastern desert for many, many years. I think of David, who was promised to become king, running into the desert for his life.
All these stories have similarities. These men’s lives start full of promise – whether it be dreams, a royal upbringing or a promise of greatness. I think of a life changing event or events these men had – challenges on their life, a fissure between their promised glory and their present reality. I try to empathise with these men – how would I react if everything I held dear was ripped away from me? My home, my family, my comfort, my stability taken away and I was flung into the desert.
There’s a few ways we can react when we are having a wilderness experience. When everything seems far away, when even a little comfort seems unattainable. When we thirst for refreshment of the soul, of the mind, of the spirit or some nourishment relationally.
I guess there’s a stack of ways you can act when you’re in the wilderness. You could just let it overcome you. You could fight it out. You could go into survival mode. I guess everyone is different and deals with those experiences differently.
The more I hear of people that have had ‘wilderness experiences’, the more I see an emerging pattern. After being in the wilderness, there’s a restoration, but that restoration is always a choice. People generally don’t chose to stay in the desert forever. We all know the aforementioned stories end – Joseph does not lose sight of his visions, regardless of what life throws at him (and a stack is thrown at him). He stays true, he believes, he is lead through his many wildernesses. Moses? He led the Israelites out of Egypt. That’s no mean feat! David? From shepherd boy to giant killer to desert wanderer to King.
Here’s the crunch. What were those dreams you had in your heart, all those years ago? Where are they now? Have they been snubbed out by life? By a wilderness experience? Maybe your partner walked out on you. Perhaps you lost your job. Maybe your faith has been battered by the storms of life. Maybe the lure of riches ended up just being a rusty fishhook.
I truly believe those dreams were put in your heart for a reason. I also truly believe sometimes we need a wilderness experience to remember those dreams. To remember what it is you believed in, those many years ago. You don’t need to be in the wilderness forever. You don’t need to be separated – from life, from promise, from relationship, from destiny, from hope forever.
What has being in the wilderness taught you? When all has been stripped away, what is really important to you?
What’s stopping you from getting out of the wilderness? Pride? Past hurts? You’re right on your own? You like being in the middle of the desert? Whatever it is, you can be restored – but you need to make the decision.
Look around you – the world is full of stories of the odds being battled. Of sunshine after the rain. Of the stillness after the storm has past.
It’s time for you to write your story of coming out of the wilderness.
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