By Ken Woodley
There always seems to be another wilderness, doesn’t there?
One more “wilderness moment.”
And some are bigger than others.
COVID-19 keeps us in a wilderness that has already lasted more than half a year. And this pandemic-driven landscape is in addition to our own personal wildernesses.
With recent storms, the trees in my part of the world are mostly shorn of leaves, bare limbs silhouetted against the sky.
But in the early morning, and then again at sunset and into the gloaming, they are compelling sights. Their stark darkness emphasizes the beauty of a new day’s dawn and reminds us of its wonder as that day passes away.
They are not unlike our own outstretched prayers reaching up from our souls toward the heavens after wilderness moments have stripped away all of our own “leaves.”
Like beauty, the wilderness can be in the eye of the beholder.
And, crucially, there are leaves we cannot see that are nevertheless storm-proof and beyond the grasp of seasons.
In nature, even the seemingly barren wilds have their own transcendent splendor, if we look hard enough with a discerning eye. Our moments of inner wilderness can provide hidden gifts, as well. They can reveal opportunities for spiritual adventure. Difficult ones, perhaps, but adventures nonetheless.
As we begin the season of Advent, let’s re-frame our minds and set a determined course to have an “Advent-ure” between now and Christmas.
The wilderness doesn’t have to be relentlessly dangerous or continuously scary. It can be liberating. Deepening. Filled with epiphanies, large and small.
The wilderness, after all, is where things happen because it removes all of our artificial props and distractions.
The wilderness is where we can most deeply encounter the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew the wilderness. It was where he embraced his shepherding ministry of servanthood after overcoming the temptation to rule the world.
The wilderness is where we embrace our own spiritual destiny and truest selves, often overcoming the temptation to regard ourselves as lost or left behind.
We are nothing of the kind.
It may seem that we are in a lonely place.
But that’s alright.
That can, in fact, be a good thing.
Jesus often sought out a lonely place to pray, contemplate, and commune with God.
Lonely places are where things happen.
And there’s an interesting thing about the word lonely.
Remove the first L and the word becomes “onely.”
A “onely” place.
A place where we may become one with Jesus, even if only for a flashing instant of reverberating epiphany.
Where we might become one with God for a single breath that goes on breathing.
Where the Holy Spirit brushes past us, touching our arm in a way that tells us it won’t be last time.
Christmas is weeks away.
What an “Advent-ure” it can be getting there from here—with Easter in our hearts.
By Ken Woodley