The Wilderness Experience

Sinai 1“Experiencing the wilderness is an expanding and uplifting sensation for the human spirit. It draws us out beyond our selves. An untamed environment, untouched by human beings, whether it is a vast ocean, rain forest, a desert, points to the ultimate mystery at the heart of the world which continually calls human beings to a deeper communion with the Earth and with God”. Sean McDonagh, Irish Columban Missionary and Eco-theologian

I don’t want to argue with Father Sean, but I fear we can be just a little too romantic about the benefits of wilderness spirituality. This is something I wrote after just a few days in the Sinai.

You tell me you are going through a ‘wilderness experience’ in your faith.

So does it mean?

You don’t know whether to sit, stand or walk

Because your backside is so sore?

You long for the sun because it’s so cold at night

And when it comes you are beaten down

By its unrelenting glare?

You’ve seen the tracks of an animal

Walk over you in your sleeping bag

But the maker of the tracks?

You’ve walked into a new place

And left only your footprints?

You’ve walked and walked

And found nowhere to go?

You’ve been confronted by so much honesty

That you feel stripped-bare?

You’ve been seduced?

You’ve felt you’ve lost everything

But been given everything too?

You’ve looked in every direction

And each way forward looks as

Confusing as the other?

And it’s been so quiet

You’ve been afraid to hear

Your heart beat?


Now think!


Do not rush to say ‘yes’ because

This is an encounter with wildness

And it is very frightening.

May be I didn’t stay long enough to receive the blessing of the wild?

You can read another reflection on the Wilderness Experience on the Baptist Times website here.

Image: Eva Lewitus

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