“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?
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