The necessity of wilderness

(Last Sunday we heard about a hungry Jesus in the wilderness facing temptation and letting go of making stones into bread.  I have been participating in an on-line retreat for Lent which has touched on wilderness and the “letting go” that we all must do….This is from my journaling.)


Most of the time in the wilderness one feels the letting go deeply,
and is aware of the doing without, little things and large, of the saying no,
and then of the stillness and, yes, the monotony,
and space, empty, long wilderness space.
There is hunger and cold, both in body and soul,
aching and fear, itching for more of something
and uncertainty about the nothing. No, nothing
is certain in the wilderness that’s for sure (or not).

It is tempting to bail out. To jump back into noise and busyness. To be distracted into filling the emptiness. To filling expectations. To filling time. To filling the chatter. To fulfilling a pull to move on out and manage the universe so that contentment reigns for to whom we have responsibility. To save the world, or least my corner of it. “If you are the daughter of God, take….” 

But wilderness is slow work. It takes a long time
for hunger to grow and then lose its demanding grip,
a longer time for silence to speak.
It takes a while to know the difference
between howling wind and life’s breath.
And so one Lenten foot stays in the wild while
one hand attends to the ‘must do’
and the rest is falling into a pile of things dropped in the dust.
How much will be relegated in the end as so much rubbish,
and how much will be picked up again, rearranged into a pastor’s backpack
with wilderness priorities and finally brought back into the community
is yet a part of the wilderness uncertainty. Either way,
it is not easily deemed part of a job description to wander for Lenten hours
in the wilderness when one must
water the soil.
There’s a scent of neglect.

Or is it holy necessity?