Wilderness speaks of raw elements, things untouched, untamed , undomesticated. Wilderness calls to us because it reveals something different of the nature of God, and of ourselves.
Christians tend to like to have things neatly taped – and that includes the Lord. He is often put in a box labelled Peace and Order (which are some of His characteristics), but the fact is often ignored that He cannot, and will not, be confined or manipulated. We, on the other hand, love to be in control (an occupational hazard for church leaders), and get nervous around too much spontaneity. I am always struck by seemingly random nature of the spread of the Gospel in Acts – especially after persecution dispersed Christians from Jerusalem, and I’m sure many of us would want to do things in a much more ‘organised’ way! Apparently the Lord was totally unconcerned - He works everything in accordance with His will, after all [Ephesians 1:11].
CS Lewis in ‘The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe’ said it well, when writing about Aslan, the Lion King, his represention of Jesus…
“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you He is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond- the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought He was a man. Is He – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then He isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
We don’t follow a tame God. He doesn’t conform to our rules, but requires that we fall in with His. And this wonderful, creative, powerful Lord invites us out of our ordinary prosaic lives, into an adventure with Him.
WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH REST?
One way of getting in touch with that part of our nature is by taking time out in the wild: in the hills, by the sea, or even by watching a storm*. By taking the time to be still, absorbing the sense of place & in the silence that comes, asking its Creator to show you the adventure you were born for.
There was a practice among the early Christians in this country of setting sail in a boat without a rudder, to be blown wherever the elements might take them. It was a physical expression of the willingness to trust God in letting go of the familiar, in order to find a new life.
I’m not advocating we do the same! But we may need to let go of our comfort zones to embrace the life we were designed to live. For the majority it won’t mean jacking in the day job and moving continents; for most it will be an adventure to be had right where they are, in their family, in their neighbourhood, in their place of employment, doing old things with new inspiration. But for some it will involve the courage to start something new, pursue a dream, or explore talents they didn’t know they had.
We cannot find complete rest until we are doing the works we were born to do [Ephesians 2:]. So why not take time to absorb the lessons of the wilderness, and discover your unique destiny & calling - remembering that with God, nothing is impossible.
*Please use common sense: wilderness walking without proper equipment or training, or getting too close to a storm-tossed sea, for example, can endanger not only your lives but those of a rescue party. It is perfectly possible to be touched by the wild, from a safe place!