|Trees, yo. Love them. Well, being with them.|
I am in a wilderness. I know a thing or two about unfamiliar and dangerous places. I'm a four on the enneagram. Having an existential crisis is my jam. I know a thing or two about wilderness. I took a cross-country road trip in a '91 Honda Civic (coincidentally it was the last time gas was a dollar a gallon). The wilderness is my friend. I don't mean friend as in the kind that wants to fix you pancakes. I mean the kind of friend that will stop at nothing to keep you out all night. I enjoy being in dangerous places because it frees me of the illusion of safety behind the walls of society. But that illusion has always been there. Waiting and wooing and just a short distance for me to come "home."
But this is different. I don't know this place. What do you do with your existential crisis when everyone else is having an existential crisis? When it feels like everyone is in a wilderness?
This wilderness is not my friend. It is not soft and cuddly and danger-free. This wilderness only brings death. Fear. Sin. Did you know the Greek word for "sin" basically means missing the mark? How can you even take a shot when you aren't clear on what you are aiming for?
I am in "not now." Trapped by time. By circumstance. Like I'm supposed to be in a different place. This is not a bad week that disappears with a weekend at Disney or a good night sleep. Besides, who can do that right now anyway? When we go to a hotel or some unfamiliar place and try to sleep half our brain stays awake just in case. No one sleeps in the wilderness. Not now. You ever see the movie "The Grey" where Liam Neeson fights against the existential crisis of cold and wolves? Yeah. The wilderness. I feel trapped like in that movie. Neeson's character keeps having flashbacks to better times and keeps getting yanked back into the present to continue the struggle. Each of the men of his group succumb to the wilderness. Even this one guy who just gives up in the middle of the beautiful weather because he decides that this space is not worth leaving. I can't tell which guy I am and how I go, but it's the wilderness. We all go.
You know why Israel is constantly testing God in the wilderness? Because it is the wilderness. There isn't anything else to test. You know what the beasts will do. You know what the sun will do. You know what happens without fresh water. But we don't yet know what God will do. When Israel complained to Moses that he brought them out there to die, I wish God had told Moses to pass along the obvious: "Yeah! Duh, it's the wilderness! I hope you die out here! I hope all your misconceptions, all your insecurities, all those parts of you that you think are you but aren't will all return to the dust that they came from so that I can give you life again." Places of comfort. Places of security, control, or approval. Gone. So those can be found elsewhere.
"Not now," is killing me.
I am in "not that." What do you do when every idea you have to manage the situation is spent and left worthless in freeing you and those you love from this prison? This isn't whack-a-mole. This isn't minesweeper. When I look through the tool shed of my life there isn't a blade sharp enough to slay this giant. No one resource is abundant enough to sustain me. How much rejection can one person take before their heart shrivels and dies?
|My daughter made this.|
"Not that," is killing me.
The worst part is here I am experiencing a lot of "not you."
I've lived under the illusion that one day, it would be time for me to throw my hat in the ring. One day, a challenge would be before me that I was made to address. One day, I would leap, willing and able, into the battle. I'd go at the devil with a sword and be victorious. One day, I would be martyred to exemplify the love and life of Jesus Christ and it would make God and everyone proud. Besides, what do you think preachers do all day with their time? Well, this ain't it. This is not the moment. This is not the time. I am not the guy. Apparently this is for others to conquer.
And yet. For all the "not" in my life, there are some glimmers of hope. The wilderness is not devoid of God's presence, just devoid of my attention to it. The wilderness is not devoid of lessons that bring life, just devoid of the avoidance of death.
God help us. I wish I could tell you I was ready for this. That you were ready for this. Maybe you are. The wilderness is a place where we are forced to do without. You can't go into the wilderness with a full canteen, backpack filled to the brim with gear or all the food you care to eat. There must be risk. If you aren't struggling, you aren't growing.
I wish I could tell you it is all well and good. I wish I could say that there is enough for everyone and there won't be pain or difficulty. I wish I could tell you I'll come away from this unscathed. But man oh man, if Jesus in the resurrection still has his scars from the cross, then why should I act like mine will disappear? Like a resurrected Jack would have pristine skin and zero indication of the hard knocks?
Maybe this is the great blessing of this wilderness. Those who survive (and if you stretch the timeline out long enough, God is infinitely patient, right Sally?) will have some amazing scars to show that will testify to the resurrection.
Look, I've got it easy. The first moment I knew this crisis was serious is when we had to buy scented toilet paper instead of our usual benign kind. That pales in comparison to people losing their lives or people losing their jobs.
To hell with this wilderness. It is hell. I'm coming out of this place. You are coming with me. I'm striving to let the worst of me die. I hope the worst of you will die too. I hope we hear, not now, not that, and not you enough that the only thing left in our lives is the resurrected Christ for us to cling to.
I am in a season of wilderness. It won't last forever, but I hope I make the most of the lessons it will afford me. God is with us. I'm glad we have each other.