Saturday, June 14, 2014

that my home is in the wilderness

There have been several books on the market over the years about what to do when we're in a wilderness mentality or life stage. I've read several. They mostly suggest that it's a temporary stop-over and that you're bound to come out in a busier, more fruitful, and less barren place if you just hold on. But while you are in the wilderness, they offer tips to help you deal with being there, or get you out faster. None of those authors ever seem to suggest that anyone might want to stay there permanently. The very word, 'wilderness' has connotations of fighting our way through a dense jungle of pesky vines which conceal our view of what we really want life to be, a bit like Prince Charming trying to fight his way through to the enchanted castle where Sleeping Beauty lies.

I started wondering, 'Well, what if you do want to stay there and maybe build a house? To you, wilderness isn't the confusing jungle, or the bleak, empty wasteland of T.S. Eliot's poem, but a welcoming place of peace and satisfaction? You don't mind the thought of making occasional forays out into the wider world, but love having the wilderness to retreat to as your home base.

Jesus often told his disciples to come away into the physical wilderness. He obviously thought highly of the peace and refreshment to be found there.

Early this week, I found a well-known book at the second hand shop which I've been interested in reading for some time. It was 'The Tao of Pooh' by Benjamin Hoff. He extols the value of Pooh Bear's simple, contented mindset, as opposed to the harried, grandiose, hyperactive or depressed attitudes of some of his other friends in One Hundred Acre Woods.

"Emptiness is refreshing," he says. "It cleans out the messy mind and charges the batteries of spiritual energy." He goes on to say, "Many people are afraid of emptiness, however, because it reminds them of loneliness. Everything has to be filled in. Appointment books, hillsides, vacant lots - but when the spaces are filled, the loneliness really begins. Then the groups are joined, the classes are signed up for, and the gift-to-yourself items are bought."

He's probably right. We've been taught to value being busy and stressed, and wear these states as badges of importance. When I think about it, the Bible never suggests that it should be this way. I started thinking about how many very significant events happened far away from the metropolis, where big-wigs were being admired, important decisions were being made, and people were plying their trades. I think the physical wilderness represents the value of the mental peace and quiet I've come to prefer.

*Jacob lay on his rock pillow, and received a dream vision of a stairway to heaven, with angels ascending and descending. He woke up, look around his bleak surroundings with awe and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place."
* Moses saw the burning bush while in the wilderness, and his life changed forever. At that stage, he'd given up the lifestyle of an Egyptian Prince, a 'somebody'. He was simply looking after his father-in-law's sheep in the middle of nowhere.
* David loved the wilderness and surely wrote some of his famous Psalms in its peace and quiet. To him, it wasn't a barren wasteland, but the place of quiet, green pastures and still waters he immortalised in Psalm 23. It was in the wilderness he'd cared for his sheep, rescuing them from a bear and a lion, which later gave him the courage to believe he could face Goliath.
* Elijah lived there for some time, away from threat of weak King Ahab and bad Queen Jezebel, being sustained by ravens through the scorching drought and famine.
* John the Baptist chose the wilderness for his home, going for an austere lifestyle. We all know about his camel hair coats and diet of locusts and honey.
* The two sad disciples were travelling by foot on a lonely road to Emmaus, when Jesus approached, unrecognised by them, and began walking with them.
* Paul was travelling a similar lonely road on the way to Damascus, intending to give followers of 'The Way' a hard time, when he had his sudden, dramatic conversion experience which blinded him for a time.
* My very favourite occurred when the angels, who couldn't contain their joy and excitement, appeared to a group of shepherds, doing the regular job out in the countryside, to announce that the Savior of the World had just been born and lay in a manger. This is while everything that seemed important was going on in the big cities, whose VIPs were oblivious.

I like the physical wilderness too. Australia is full of it. Between South Australia and Queensland is lots of red desert plains that just stretch on and on when we fly over them. Driving the same route takes weeks. We did it when the kids were small. At times, we felt as if we were on a car treadmill, because the scenery on each side didn't change for eight hours straight. But the peaceful, gentle rolling of those plains, and the scrubby desert plants, refreshed something in my brain. It's good to simply sit there in the car because there is nothing else to be done at that moment. I could almost feel my brain re-charging, just as Benjamin Hoff wrote.

That's why, when all is said and done, I'd rather make my mental home in the refreshing wilderness, and come out for the occasional stimulation before retreating back to the peace again. So many people seem to prefer it the other way, by living in all the rush and excitement, retreating to the wilderness to crash when they are absolutely exhausted, before returning home to the hustle and bustle again.

Here are some further thoughts from a fellow who really did choose to go and live out in the sticks by himself.


  1. Wintery weekend afternoons are a good time to retreat into the wilderness of the soul. Thank you for that lovely reflection.

  2. Hi Susanne,
    I agree with you. And it doesn't seem to be getting any warmer. It's the time of year when winter sets in.

  3. A lovely blog Paula. I enjoy the way you look at things!

  4. Thanks very much, Rita. I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

  5. I'm with you, I would rather be in the wilderness. I never get bored when I'm walking in the parks near us. I like to spend time away from people.

  6. Hi Cristina, I'm in full agreement with you there. You can almost feel yourself being recharged.


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