The Wilderness is something which few of us have ever encountered. Yet the Wilderness is a critical and important starting point in the story of Jesus as he moved from his construction business into a traveling, itinerant ministry and as he moved from waiting and preparing to moving forward and doing.
It was in the Wilderness that John the baptizer appeared in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival. (Matthew 3: 1-3) And after Jesus had arrived and been baptized there, it was on to yet another Wilderness that Jesus was led for spiritual nurturing and maturing. (Matthew 4:1) So, according to these two citations, the Wilderness is conducive to discovering, knowing, and learning to follow God better.
Most people would say the opposite. We like padded pews, the coffee on, and the thermostat set at a perfect 72 degrees, with no drafts! It even becomes possible, after so much such pampering, to mistake familiarity and comfort themselves for God. And if I am controlling my environment, if I have been able to successfully tame my environment, and remove all impediments to my personal safety from my environment, then what does that make me? I become kind of my own God in that case: God(me) and God (the pleasant and harmless environment)) and God (the status quo).
A god in three parts, blessed (perverse) trinity!
Thus, the need for Wilderness. The unpredictability of that which is wild reminds us that we are not in ultimate control- not at all. The real world in which humans live does, in fact, have sharp edges: tsunamis, tornados, and tooth decay among many others. The Wilderness doesn’t merely remind us that we are one part of a much larger and complicatedly inter-related scenario, it forces us to act within that scenario, or die. The Wilderness, in short, gives us many (infinitely many more) opportunities to discover God and God’s Continuing Creation, and our part in that Continuance, than any thermostat ever will.
Behind the noise of the familiar, even beyond the endless noise of our yapping egos, there is the voice of He/She/That Which will whisper in our ears, and in our hearts, “Beloved..”