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.
Image from http://www.hashtagpics.com/?p=595
Have you ever read a form guide? A form guide tells you about the horse or dogs racing in a particular race, the odds for the current race, the animal’s racing history and often some notes. It might say a dog races well on dryer tracks, or a horse is slower in shorter distances.
You read a form guide to back a winner on the races. You look at the animals history, how it’s been training, the trainers notes and the odds it has for winning.
Have you ever thought what would be written about you on your form guide?
I’m going to be honest here. Really raw and really honest.
My form guide would be a litany of failure and loss. I’m a terrible student at uni. I think my career has stalled. I procrastinate terribly. I’ve made mistakes in the relationships in my life and hurt the ones I’ve loved. I over eat. I’m terrible at future planning.
I wouldn’t back me – not for anything important anyway.
I’ve been reminded lately, however, of someone that’s read my form guide and does not read what I read.
Someone that’s known me from even before the beginning. That knows me intimately, but still backs me 100%.
Almost every night, I sing a song to my son as a lullaby called ‘Softly and Tenderly’. Johnny Cash sings a pretty sweet version of it and I’d encourage you to have a listen, if you’ve got time. It’s an old hymn, the words are in the old style. The message, however, is as beautiful today as it was penned all those years ago.
Y’know, Jesus didn’t come for those who had their life together. He didn’t come to those who had everything sorted out. He came for those with terrible form guides. For those with a history of failure. For those who don’t see how they can win another race. He came for me and he came for you.
He’s got a race that he wants you in. He knows your history and he wants to be in your future.
What’s your form guide got in it? Brokenness? Failure? Loss? Disappointment? Jesus knows all about it. He gave it all – his whole life in fact – so you can be on his team.
Y’know, you could read this and think this Jesus mumbo jumbo just ain’t for you, and if that’s the case, I totally respect that.
He wants you on his team cause he loves you. He cares not for your past – he wants to be in your future. He’s backing you because he knows your a winner. He wants to put abundant life in your form guide from here on in.
Image from http://www.brc.com.au/brc/racing/form-guide/