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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I’ve just bought a house and will be moving next week. It’s a very exciting time for me and my family! We’ve told our extended family and shared some photos on Facebook. We’ve had a look through home decorating magazines and catalogues for ideas to personalise our home and garden. We are very, very excited!
One of the most amazing things about life is sharing it with those you love. Your family. Your friends.
You would probably have people in your life that you miss – children that have moved away, parents that have passed on, friends you’ve lost along the way.
What I’ve been thinking about is who misses you?
Could it be a new girl or boyfriend, anxiously waiting your call or message in the evening, missing you even though you’ve just seen each other during the day?
Could it be the child who’s run away, and has a parent searching, missing, wishing they’d come home?
Could it be the old friend, wishing he’d never said those words, just missing his old mate.
Who’s missing you?
Who’s waiting by their letter box, waiting for a letter from you?
Is there someone who still checks their phone, hoping for a text from you?
Is there an old mate of yours out there, just wanting to have a beer with you one more time?
I bet there are people out there that miss you. They don’t need to know all the intimacies of your life, they just want to be part of it.
I’m going to challenge you. Send that text. Pick up the phone. Write (and send) that letter. Go out for that drink. Because you know what’s worse than being missed? It’s not being missed.
About this time last year, South East Queensland was lashed by devastating floods. Small towns, farms and valleys experienced terrible flooding. In my professional role, I was required to spend time in some of these small towns and faming communities as part of the governmental disaster relief program. I witnessed the absolute gouging of the water through the valleys. Whole paddocks washed away. Concrete bridges smashed and thrown down the river like they were driftwood. Scars 9’ high etched through the middle of the valleys. I spoke to some of the farmers who had been through this, and other floods. They spoke of the roar of the river. The recklessness of water. The tyranny of the flood. They experienced it – I just saw the aftermath of it. The effects. The devastation. Watching these farmers gauge how they would rebuild, if they could. Wondering what they would do with a gravel riverbed where acres of paddock used to be. Counting the cost.
At the moment, I find myself in a storm. Not a physical storm, but a destructive storm nevertheless. The storm? Divorce. Before you ask – no, I am not getting divorced, nor separated. I do, however, feel like I have front row tickets, watching the storm that is divorce in an acquaintance of mine. Like any storm, you see the warnings, the signs. You get ready to brace. You prepare yourself for it, hoping somehow it will pass. Hoping the violence of divorce will somehow fizzle out and end up being a storm in a teacup. You put up protective walls around your already bruised heard. And you brace. Then it comes.
The storm rages around you, like the storms mentioned above. The rain pours down, it races down the mountain. It collects, gathers speed. It disregards all in its path. It smashes against those with strong foundations and demolishes those on shifting soils. The storm of divorce is a selfish storm. It cares not for those in its path. It cares not for the devastation it leaves behind in its wake. It thunders down the mountain and rips a deep gouge in the valley of the heart. It separates, isolates, causes fear, shakes foundations.
At the moment, I am seeing this storm shake the family in question. That raging torrent is screaming through the valley. It’s drowning the love that might have been there. It’s ripping away root from earth. How much more destabilising can this storm of divorce be?
This violence that is divorce does not just affect the married people in question. The surge washes over children, parents, extended family, friends. That’s why it’s selfish. I’ve noticed in many a divorce, one, sometimes both people are just being so selfish, disregarding all those with an emotional investment in the marriage, in the health of the family.
You know, it’s easy to feel out of control in the midst of the storm of divorce. The farmers I spoke to told of the gripping fear of helplessness in the midst of the storm. Of being powerless against the anger of the river. Of the rising of the tied. But like the storm in the valley, the storm of divorce subsides. Yes, devastation follows, but that devastation does not define the recovery.
The ‘no fault’ divorce has been a part of Australian Family Law since 1979. Children of those early ‘no fault’ divorce parents are now often married themselves. Many of my peers don’t want their parents’ marriage. They definitely don’t want their parents’ divorce! Regardless of your family history, it’s not your future. You don’t have to be your parents’ marriage. You certainly do not have to be your parents’ divorce! You have the opportunity to create your own family, for you, your spouse and your children.
So if you are suffering under the effects of someone’s divorce, take heart. The storm subsides and the water recedes. From there, you can re-build. You can decide what foundations you want for your life. For your marriage. For your children. You can decide not to inflict the violence of divorce onto those you love – those that need your protection the most.
I sit with dad and my younger brother at the Laundromat. It’s 8pm on a Sunday night. Tomorrow we are back at mums. It’s been a wet weekend. Dad digs deep in his pocket for another $1 for the dryer. Dad pulls us boys close and apologises that we wont have money for an ice-cream tonight. He knows there will be hell to pay if we bring back dirty clothes to mums.
I sit with mum in the foyer of the Police station, just like we do every second Friday afternoon. Every time that door opens, my heart quickens – will it be dad? It sinks as soon as the door closes and he’s not walking through the door. I know it’s been a few months now, but I just know one day he’ll come and get me for the weekend.
“Do I have to go?” I beg mum “It’s so boring at dad’s on the holidays, can’t I just go to Nannas?”.
Mum looks down at me “Sorry honey, but you need to spend time with your dad. He loves you a lot and you need to see him” I can tell she is trying to be as supportive as she can. At least she’s not saying bad things, like she used to.
“But all I do is spend time with his new wife and their baby” I plead.
“Sorry darling, but you have to go”.
“I’m off to mums” I yell out to dad, grabbing my bag.
“Are you staying there overnight?” dad chimes from the kitchen.
“Nup. Her boyfriend is over and you know he gives me the creeps. I’m just going over to use the internet”.
“Take care sweets, Dinner at 7. Take care”
For some reason, mum & dad are just nicer when they are apart.
“Please don’t argue with dad today, please” I implore mum “Just for once, it’s my graduation”. She always seems to cause a scene when dad is around. It’s been years, but she’s still angry. Why cant she just be a grown up for once? We get out of the car. She sees dad. I see the red building up in her.