This is the wilderness time,
when every path is obscure
and thorns have grown around the words of hope.
This is the time of stone, not bread,
when even the sunrise feels uncertain
and everything tastes of bitterness.
This is the time of ashes and dust,
when darkness clothes our dreams
and no star shines a guiding light.
This is the time of treading life,
waiting for the swells to subside and for the chaos to clear.
Be the wings of our strength, O God,
in this time of wilderness waiting.
– Keri Wehlander from “600 Blessings and Prayers from around the world” compiled by Geoffrey Duncan
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness,
is like being commanded to be well when we are sick,
to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst,
to run when our legs are broken.
But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless.
Even in the wilderness- especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.
~Frederick Buechner from A Room Called Remember:Uncollected Pieces
I usually think of wilderness as a distant peak far removed from anything or anyone. From my farmhouse window on a clear day, I can see a number of distant peaks if the cloud cover moves away to reveal them.
Or perhaps the wilderness is a desolate plain that extends for miles without relief in sight.
Wilderness is also found in an isolated corner of my human heart. I keep it far removed from anything and anyone. During my televisit computer work, I witness this wilderness in others, many times every day.
A diagnosis of “wilderness of the heart” doesn’t require a psychiatric manual:
there is despair, discouragement, disappointment, lack of gratitude, lack of hope.
One possible treatment to tame that wilderness is a covenantal obedience to God and others. It reaches so deep no corner is left untouched.
There come times in one’s life, and this past year especially, when loving God as commanded seems impossible. We are too broken, too frightened, too ill and too wary to trust God with faith and devotion. We are treading life simply to stay afloat.
During this second Lenten pandemic, God’s love becomes respite and rescue from the wilderness of my own making. He is the sweet cure for a bitter and broken heart.