I've been thinking about the "wilderness" quite a bit this week since the lectionary for this past Sunday included Jesus' time in the wilderness (Mark 1:9-13). Mark's version of the story is quite spare -- a few lines only. In fact, the whole "temptations" part of the story is summed up in verse 13 --- " He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him." I love the spareness of Mark.
I am in the wilderness now, in several ways. I've been here before, I will be here again. I don't like being here, but I don't fear it quite as much as I used to. I know that eventually (as long as keep my wits about me!) I will emerge into familiar places, or "civilized" places, and that I will emerge a stronger, clearer self. It's the meanwhile that's difficult.
What is about wilderness? We like to think we enjoy wilderness. We want to vacation in it --- camping out in the woods, roughing it in the wild, photographing wildlife, retreating from the noise and clamor of our workaday lives. Yet we fear it too --- and we worry about getting lost, losing contact, what if there's an accident?
Being in the wilderness allows adventure and trailblazing -- trying new things. Nothing is set up and working, you have to build it yourself. Some things work, others don't. You learn a lot in the experimentation. You also learn what's important, and what's not. What you really need and what you only think you need. It can be lonely, devastatingly lonely. You find yourself talking to yourself. You discover what you don't like in yourself, and what you do like. On those rare occasions you meet another wilderness traveler, you may be given new insight.
Sometimes it helps when you are with others in the wilderness. There is strength in numbers, and you can support each other in your endeavors. Sometimes though your mutual fears can debilitate you and turn you down the wrong path in your fear.
The thing is, even when I am most lonely, most desperate, I remember I am not ALONE. God is present, and I sincerely feel, is guiding me. I don't know where I'm being guided, but I just have to remember that there is a map for me, a GPS for the spirit. I just have to use it.