By Fr. Stephen Young
Six people spent a day immersed in the wilderness. The following is their shared experience:
There is a rhythm of time found in God’s creation, yet it seems timeless. A frog basks in the sun next to us, a hawk banks close by, each alone but seemingly complete, pictures of order and contentment.Baptized into this rhythm while sitting upon an unhewn stone, this rhythm is sensed best while in solitude. We are alone but never lonely.
So off goes your watch without thinking.
Mounted on your wrist, it now looks silly.
We are operating on God’s time and at His pace.
There is a feeling of wholeness; eating when hungry, letting go, opening up.
We open up to the font of God’s Presence while being attentive to His prophetic voice.The wilderness teaches in its own time, on its own terms to all who will listen. We are in the wilderness to listen. It feels right to listen and to attend. It deeply satisfies. Peace enters.
Jesus gives all of His creation the promise of contentment found
in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Behold, in the wilderness we are surrounded by such promised contentment.
All of Creation sings praises to its creator, the Father,
which is heard in the roar of the forest, in the rustling wind,
and in the songs and beauty of every living thing.
Here we sit where God’s visible nature is most intact, unshrouded by human contrivance. Here, we are intimately aware of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Here, the Trinity touches each of us and with all creation together worship God with praise and thanksgiving.
From the beginning of biblical history, the prophets went into the wilderness
to find God and to be filled with His Holy Spirit.
Similarly, we are formed with an empty core need, a deep aching
which can only be filled by God’s love.
We go into the wilderness to be filled, to be changed, to be home.
God isn’t silent. His love is always pouring, always shining. We just do not pay attention.The wilderness transforms us as we open up and expose ourselves to Him. Scripture makes it clear that God is always available. We aren’t! The wilderness strips away the distractions, and as we open ourselves, we see and listen as God reveals Himself to us.
At first, in the presence of God’s majesty visible in the wilderness,
we are awe-struck, and we feel insignificant before it like a contrite Job.
As we meditate upon being created in His image and likeness, we begin to feel
We bear a responsibility to bring others to this gift of a vision of God’s majesty
and to protect the sacred places where such visions of His love are expressed.
In the wilderness, our insignificance dissipates into God’s wholeness, and we wonder why we have stayed away so long, away from the peace that quiets our souls.The wilderness calls us to become humble, and as we die to self, a Christ-like love becomes more imminent.
Surrounding us everywhere in the wilderness is death in life and life in death.
We find green shoots growing out of dead tree trunks
and great trees gashed with rotted heartwood.
It is in this place that our restless egos die
as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew,
redirect and refresh us.
For it is in the wilderness, among the trees, that the breath of God is most felt; a breath that can only be felt and heard in silence. It is the inhale and exhale of Yahweh; death inhaled, life exhaled. Like Jesus on the cross, the tree of life is restored. There the rhythm and nature of the invisible God is made visible.
The wilderness awakens in us the need for the Sabbath within us.
It teaches us the cadence of God.
The purifying experience of immersing ourselves in the wilderness
brings us to a place of obedience,
It opens a window to the sacred, and we honor the command to
remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
In the wilderness, we learn obedience. We die if we do not obey the laws of the wild, the laws of God written boldly in all creation. So too we die if we do not obey the laws of God, written boldly in Scripture and upon our hearts. A loss of the wilderness in our lives surely will increase ignorance.
Moses learned wisdom in the wilderness, and it is there he learned to trust in God.
We pray for the same wisdom.
Jesus in the wilderness teaches us to pray.
“I am the way,” He said and we should follow Him.
The transparency of nature gives evidence of the Creator and the example of Christ
leads us there!
The wilderness proclaims the necessity of community and of diversity. We come into the knowledge that we are not the center of the universe. Communion is obvious in the celebration of interrelatedness all around us. Vibrant community is everywhere. “Love your neighbor as yourself” rings true in our souls.
Awe and inspiration are our response to the wilderness
and reverence for the Father and restraint toward His creation is birthed.
Man-made noise and distractions no longer have appeal here.
Restraint is love manifest.
We are engulfed in humility.
Like prayer, we cannot explain the power or meaning of the wilderness experience; the healing power of God. Our strongest rhetoric is experience itself: Our message is, “GO!!”
“Go and be healed.” You will become healers.
“Go and be taught.” You will become teachers.
“Go and receive prophecy.” You will become prophets.
“Go and be still” and know that He is God; receive His gift of His Holy Spirit.
As we leave the wilderness and we return to our cities, homes, and jobs, we pray that we may better live and walk by the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.