We are told in the gospel of Mark that Jesus was sent into the wilderness for forty days. Mark’s sparse narrative doesn’t give us much of a picture of what happened there. This time is left to our imagination. Perhaps in not being told, we are given space and place for our wilderness stories to walk with his. Perhaps in not knowing for sure, we are not limited to one particular story. Perhaps in the openness of this telling, we are given freedom to walk with him and he with us when our days feel desolate and empty.
We are centuries away from this story now. In our days of social media and endless news cycles it is nearly impossible to imagine the emptiness of his wilderness. It is not easy to try to feel what he felt, to hear and see and sense what he might have experienced. For these next days we are invited to let go of our busyness. We are invited to let go of our intense over-stimulated, constant global connections. In our unknowing, we are given the possibility of living into Jesus’ wilderness as we make our way through this Lenten season.
Many of us have known our own wilderness time. Many of us can point to past days when we, too have experienced our time of feeling lost. We can remember times when we have felt sent out, sent away. We can remember feeling out and away from familiar people and places, far away from the comfort of our routines. Left foot, right foot. Taking those steps were all we knew to do, all we could do. Left foot, right foot.
The Christian Century published a piece entitled “Wilderness” (11/8/17). B.L. Newell writes of wilderness saying,
“I go into the wilderness, no matter its size or locale, and find there some deliverance, a revelation, a knowing
or a joy. The wilderness of our earth and the wilderness at soul’s depth communicate. When I am in need
or searching for answers, untrammeled wilderness of place and untrammeled places of my soul reach out
to each other.”
As I make my way through these February into March days of 2018, I am leaning into Newell’s words about essential connections. Here in these days we are invited to let go of what is no longer life-bringing. Giving up our burdens is at the heart of giving in to the wilderness. Left foot, right foot. And perhaps the gift can come with that next step. Perhaps there or there, or on up there grace will find us. Perhaps we will step into what may be - to experience the interconnection of what is around me and what is within me - perhaps we will step into "some deliverance, a revelation, a knowing, a joy." To be held in just that moment that holds all time - what was, is and will be - ah...that would be worth the stepping out into what appears to be so barren and empty. Left foot, right foot.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan (now a freshman at Guilford College) and Sam at sophomore at DHS in Decatur, GA.