The Beauty of Wilderness
Please meet my colleague Jim Boss. Jim holds a certificate in spiritual companionship through the Christos Center “Tending the Holy” program in suburban Chicago. In addition to individual spiritual direction, he has also applied his knowledge and listening skills to hospital ministry and parish adult formation. Jim is retired from his life’s work and is flexible as to different times of the day to meet with clients in Spiritual Direction. Please reach out to Jim at his email address at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I have always loved the fall. The vibrant colors, the crisp clean air. My favorite time of year. I especially like early fall when there are chances of days with moderate temperatures.
In late fall after the leaves have dropped and been raked away, there is a feeling of nothingness. Of desolation. Of wilderness. Most of the time, I have looked at it as unsightly and barren and warning of the impending winter.
This year and, specifically the recent Advent time of year, I have looked and prayed differently. We have a sunroom on the back of our home which serves as my morning chapel. I can pray and reflect and sit quietly. It is my favorite time of day to open myself up to the Presence of the Blessed Trinity. There are Scriptures, prayer, reflections from various sources and mostly solitude.
As I have been gazing at the “wilderness,” I am contemplating the story of John the Baptist, who ventured into the wilderness and brought out the message of “…one who is to come, mightier than I. Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” And the journey of Jesus coming out of the wilderness, tired and worn, and into the Jordan to be baptized by John.
As I take in this outside picture and imagine John and Jesus coming out of a wilderness far greater and more desolate, I wonder what attracted them to it. Why would they spend so much time in the wilderness? Is there a hidden beauty there, of which I was never aware?
I sit with all that I can see with my eyes and briefly ignore any spiritual significance. What do I notice?
I remember how beautiful the summer had been. All green and in full bloom. Birds swooping into my feeders and disappearing into the foliage with their treasures. The smell of a freshly cut lawn and flowers in their fragrant finery. And now….bareness, emptiness, cold and gray.
Wait….I can see now WHERE the birds were coming from and going to. They are not as colorful now but they also are not well hidden. I see squirrels dancing on the branches and jumping playfully from limb to limb, scaling to impossible heights without any apparent fear or reservation.
In my mind’s eye, I see life still keeping the trees and bushes vibrant and waiting for the hope of spring. Are they dreaming of Spring as I am? And nests. THAT is where new life begins and the young are nurtured and kept safe.
Then I wonder. Am I in a wilderness time of my life? Did God provide this time to lead me and be with me on my journey? What does that look like for me? How will I use this time? Where will it take me?
More pondering. More wonder and awe. I think of how I have spent soul work looking deep inside myself to uncover new areas where I can find God and pursue new depths in my relationship with God. In the past it has taken the form of darkness waiting to be illuminated with the Light of the Spirit.
But now, God reveals to me that I can no longer hide in the nature of my soul, behind leaves and blossoms which, I assume, is where I can cover the things I would rather not see and certainly would not like others to see. God knows though. God sees through all that, and now God is giving me a grace and opportunity to see for myself. I have discovered there is much life there and plenty of hope and especially Love. Faith and trust are the paths to deepen my relationship with God. God is communicating with me in my own wilderness. God is reminding me how beautiful it is here. How I am God’s child and God loves me just as I am and where I am.
I need to stay here a while longer. I am in no hurry now. In the stillness and solitude there is discovery and peace. It is the next leg of this pilgrimage I know as my earthly life. It is God’s invitation to listen and receive. Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.
How blessed am I and how blessed are we all. Find joy in wilderness. Find rest in God.”
Please reach out to Jim at his email address at email@example.com