Wilderness conjures up a sense of wildness, of things untamed. We typically think of wide swaths of forest, desert, or sea that have remained relatively untouched by people, and left in their natural state. Going into the wilderness is something we tend to do by choice, being well-prepared for survival of the physical challenges of weather, and the lack of shelter, clean water, and walk-in urgent care centers. It can be risky to enter into a wilderness adventure, but we control that risk with the right equipment, training, clothing and companions.
Still, taking such a calculated risk is beyond most people. There are certain characteristics associated with people who won’t take risks. They are not comfortable with any degree of discomfort, physical,emotional,or spiritual. They tend to only undertake activities that they can control. They are too easily afraid of the unknown…fearless would never describe their nature. And lastly, they are often too self-obsessed to intentionally step into that scary unknown.
Now, in the physical wilderness of outdoor adventure, common sense should dictate our behaviors. It would be foolish to paddle storm-tossed Lake Superior when you could hunker down safely in camp for the day, or to leave food and dirty dishes around camp in bear country. But what can be said about our ability to navigate the emotional and spiritual side of the wilderness of life?
I was a timid child-so much so that my father often expressed mild disgust in wondering if something was seriously wrong with me. People frightened me. So did the dark. And the Bambi movie, carnival rides, crowds, tornado warnings (my assigned spot was under a big desk in the basement), fireworks, nuclear attack drills, people shouting, and swimming in deep water. It was, frankly, a very big, and extremely scary world. In my middle years, I gained confidence by learning the ropes of sailing, paddling, climbing, backpacking, tennis, archery, and mathematics. As you might infer, I gravitated toward the solitary and quiet pursuits. These taught me a lot about myself- that I should focus on moving forward, not on failure, on problem solving, and developing a tougher skin more impervious to judgment. It slowly dawned that I could, and should-on purpose– be willing to try new things that made me uncomfortable, because being fearless is not the same as being reckless. As an adult, while my temerity can still arise at inopportune times, I am much better adapted to being open-minded to others’ opinions, and more willing to do the hard work of self-assessment- that uncomfortable dissection of one’s beliefs and attitudes and assumptions that need serious and studious attention.
I think the key words are LEARNING and WILLINGNESS. This is how we avoid always doing and saying what we have always done and said. It is how we cultivate a new, and godlier mindset.
As people in step with God already know, He seems fond of directing us to take big steps into very dark territory, into situations we cannot control, cannot predict, and for which we have few skills to offer. My guess is that God works this way to teach us dependence on Him. We have much to LEARN, and it is our WILLINGNESS to leap obediently into a new wilderness that, in the face of our common, culturally-dictated sense of things, makes no sense at all; to us it seems foolishly reckless. To God it makes all the sense in the world. Fearlessness comes from complete trust, and a willingness to relinquish control and comfort and fear of failure to the One who makes all of life a wilderness. What has been holding you back? It’s time to drop your self-obsession and push through to a higher plain. The wilderness of life may be scary, but it is also indescribably beautiful. Make the leap. God will catch you.
Thanks for reading and sharing!