What happens to you when you hear that word? Does is make you nervous? Does it stir up fear in your mind? When I hear it I think I literally feel hate. I HATE the wilderness. I have always hated the wilderness. It’s like driving in certain parts of the country where there is nothing to look at…literally nothing. No mountains, no ocean, no trees…just dry, barren, brown earth. I don’t want to go to the wilderness. It’s not pretty to look at. It’s either too hot or too cold. It seems to go on forever and there is nothing to look forward to. I can never see anything but that wilderness. It’s a place of no hope.
Do you hate the wilderness with me now? Well I’m about to switch it up. For having such strong feelings, I am beginning to change my mind. I did a Google image search for “wilderness” and what popped up was not what I expected at all. Every photo was beautiful. What I had pictured in my mind looked more like this….
Ok….so it’s not at all what I imagined it to be by photo definition so I decided to look it up. Dictionary.com says this:
- a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland.
- a tract of land officially designated as such and protected by the U.S. government.
- any desolate tract
- a part of a garden set apart for plants growing with unchecked luxuriance.
- a bewildering mass or collection.
None of these definitions say anything about a land of nothingness. I’m then realizing that my mental definition is not lining up with the facts. I look at the first definition and see that all it talks about is an uncultivated or uninhabited place…no ugliness, no lack of water, no lack of trees or grass.
And then I see number 5…..a bewildering mass or collection.
All of the sudden it all comes into focus. The wilderness is bewildering. I can’t change the wilderness. I can’t control the wilderness. I can’t get out of the wilderness as quickly as I want and I certainly can’t avoid it. It’s confusing. So most of the time, because of my personal ideas and perspective, the wilderness looks more like number 3.
And desolation looks like the desert. By definition it means barren, devastated, deserted, solitary, lonely, having a feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope. There’s that abandoned word again. But that’s it! The wilderness feels like hopelessness to me.
So if the wilderness is bewildering (extremely confusing), then of course I am going to see it as desolate (abandoned by hope). All of this put together gives no positive quality to the wilderness. But then I look at those photos I found of the wilderness….
And I see that I have been mistaken….from the very beginning. The wilderness IS a very beautiful place. But I have been looking at the wrong things. I haven’t been looking at the water and the trees and the lush vegetation. I have been looking at the rocks and the dirt and the thorns that are a small part of the wilderness. Nothing will be beautiful if you look at the wrong things.
Here’s the thing about the wilderness. Things grow here. And they grow A LOT. They don’t stay the same. The trees get taller, the grass gets greener, the creeks change shape as they flow. And things grow because they have dirt to put their roots down deep and rocks to steady their height and thorns to protect from predators. Summer and winter come and go and the shape of the land is changed as the wind, the rain, the sun, the snow cover and uncover the ground. But there are no people who interfere with this process because it is uninhabited by humans and their efforts. Do you see where I am going with this? Are you looking at the rocks and dirt or are you looking at the trees and grass? Rocks and dirt don’t grow. Trees and grass do.
So if you want to find your wilderness beautiful (and I do!), look at what God is doing to try to grow you. Let Him grow you. Let Him change you. Let Him soften you. Start looking at what is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4: 8-9) and you will start to see the wilderness that you are in as something that God is allowing because He loves you and He wants to get closer to you. And if you are growing, then you are DEFINITELY getting closer to Him. The wilderness is not ugly and it is not useless. It is painful but it is never useless.