Monday, February 10, 2014

Everybody Wanders in the Forest

People. My brothers and sisters. Can we put the wilderness analogy to rest? Or at least stop casting it in such a negative light?

It's long been a standard in Christian circles that we oft refer to those we deem as having strayed from the path as "in the wilderness." We speak of them with pity; sometimes, to be fair, with of a genuine and heartfelt concern for their spiritual well-being. Yet the problem comes when those who are on the outside of said spiritual woods set themselves on a higher plateau than those who are wandering.

Not all who wander are lost. Or so I read.

As one who has at one time or another spent an enormous time in the wilderness, let me tell you: it was ultimately a good place.

I'm not saying every choice made while in the wild was beneficial to me. I'm not advocating that people should take an intentional spiritual walkabout from their faith in order to "find themselves." And I'm not saying that the wilderness is a place for prolonged lingering.

And yet.

We shun and fear the wilderness, even though that's where things grow. The wilderness is where we can wrestle with our faith. Often we can't do so in the nice, neat confines of our constructed (and constricted) parameters of worship for fear of knocking something over. Idols we have created need to be knocked over, but we need to be cognizant of the unintentional collateral damage we might inflict.

The wilderness is where we can shout. We can articulate the questions that hound us, the struggles we endure. We can speak openly, unafraid of unintentionally disturbing someone. Not that maintaining a status quo is to be given priority, but the volume with which we speak may be a hindrance to others not on this journey.

The wilderness is where we find each other. If we stop raising our hands, heads, and voices, shouting to the sky, long enough to turn our thoughts to our surroundings, we may find markings of those who have blazed a similar trail. We may discover others walking a parallel path as we head towards a shared destination. We may ultimately find someone who has already made it through the woods and can help to guide us. And where two or more are gathered...

The wilderness is where we find ourselves. And God.

The wilderness is where John the Baptist was, declaring a message of hope. The wilderness is where Jesus went to be baptized. And despite how we focus on how Jesus was in the wilderness to be tempted, we leave out that the wilderness was also where He was ministered to by the angels.

And if you're trying to get to the mountain, many times you have to hike through the wilderness to get there.

Everybody drinks the water from the murky pool
Surely as you think you're well
You know your belly aches
Everybody learns religion at the blind man's school
Will you reach for heaven
When the preacher charms the snake

Is your faith so right
Are you so blessed
Everybody wanders in the forest
Is your heart so true

Count the butts and bottles
In the morning when we're gone
Fools agree reality is more than we should bear
How do you gaze into the sun from dusk to dawn
We love the truth enough to die but we won't swear

Is your faith so right
Are you so blessed
Everybody wanders in the forest
Is your heart so true
Are you so good
Everybody wanders in the woods

Everybody begs the juror be more than merciful
For the crime we celebrate, for bigotry we learn
Everybody drinks the water from the murky pool
Surely as it heals your soul you feel your body burn

Is your faith so right
Are you so blessed
Everybody wanders in the forest
Is your heart so true
Are you that good
Everybody wanders in the woods
Everybody wanders in the forest
Everybody wanders in the wilderness

(Lyrics by the choir. From the album SPECKLED BIRD.)

1 comment:

Jay Knudsen said...

I needed this. Thanks so much Sonny