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Meditation: "The Invitation of the Wilderness", by Debbie Celsie

Sunday, February 18, 2024      

          The Season of Lent is the season of the Church Year that allows us to reflect on the 40- day wilderness experience of Jesus. In doing this, we have a chance to reflect on the concept of wilderness and what it means to us in our lives in this day and time. This year, there are many in this world experiencing the harsh reality of wilderness in the uncertainty around the globe. There is a lot of anxiety about where this world is heading under the weight of all the suffering due to hatred and violence and war. There are many who are experiencing what may seem as the wilderness in many different ways, being alone and lonely, many who are struggling with illness, many who are living under the cloud of grief, among other things.

          On the other hand, there are those whose experience of wilderness consists in nature. They are feeling God’s invitation to get outside and get to places of beauty. To walk and breathe and notice. To some wilderness can mean a place to escape, recharge, learn, teach, and even find themselves. Luke 5:16 says “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Lonely places, speak of the wilderness, or solitary places. Jesus would often “self-isolate” and disconnect so that He could connect deeply with His Father.

           There are also some who may be wandering in the wilderness of the soul, which is a different situation. This is the wilderness where one feels truly lost. They lack direction, enthusiasm, purpose, or maybe all three. One doesn’t know what to do, and every option one sees feels like two steps backwards. One thing about being in the wilderness, no matter which kind it is, it invites us to pay attention. To notice. We don’t survive very long in extreme wilderness situations or even on a simple hike in the forest if we aren’t paying attention, paying attention to the path, to the weather, to dangers that might be ahead. Here at the beginning of our Lenten journey, our Lenten experience, how are we being invited to pay attention in the days and weeks ahead?

 

          Here at the beginning of our Lenten Journey we hear that Jesus wasn’t alone in the wilderness! The angels were caring for him and the wild animals were there too. Do WE need to take more notice to who is around us? Are we being given an invitation to be present to the things that have been placed around us to care and comfort us? Here at the beginning of our Lenten Journey, we are invited to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, maybe not as we might in a wilderness hike, as in, are we wearing the right shoes? Should we bring water and snacks, will we have the right jacket or perhaps an umbrella in case the weather changes but, more as in, do we have enough fortitude, are we continuing to build our faith to be strong enough to sustain us, are we standing up against the things that could pull us down? We also are invited to reflect on what is it that we treasure. For that is what governs our actions, our choices, our work, it is where we tend to put our attention. Some treasures are of lasting and eternal value. They enrich and grow life and make us stronger. They are worth holding on to. Other treasures, however, hold us captive and impoverish life. They diminish our life and make us weak. Learning what to hold on to and what to let go of is important and helps us in the difficult times of our lives.

          The last thing most people want to consider is a trip into the wilderness especially if we think that all wilderness is daunting and uprooting. But although some wilderness experiences can rock the boat. Perhaps, that is precisely what needs to happen, if we are meant to develop and strengthen our sea-legs and become more balanced no matter what the weather or our life conditions.

           Even though, I don’t imagine you will be asked this week to throw yourself off a roof, or intentionally starve yourself, or turn your back on God or the church as Jesus was in the dessert, you are going to be faced with choices and temptations of your own. Remember what the wilderness means to you and follow the invitation you have been given.

 

          All Glory be to God.

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