Life is a series of lessons directing us toward our divine destiny. To be certain, it requires a level of conscious awareness to realize such divinity or destiny exist. It is the role of the wilderness seasons in life to awaken our conscious awareness. The wilderness precedes a "Promise Land". The wilderness is the cocoon and incubation, before the metamorphosis and manifestation. The wilderness is where we go to find the truth about ourselves. That "truth" is our "Promise Land".
A dear friend of mine said recently:
"We have been taught to run from the wilderness instead of embracing it."
I couldn't agree more. As she recognized life leading her into her own wilderness, I am emerging from mine. What has the wilderness taught me in the last six years? What can the wilderness teach you, if you are willing to embrace it and not flee it? One way or another, you will be forced to enter it - will you do so on your terms or its?
[The wilderness is not always what we perceive it to be. The wilderness does not lead you in a straight path.]
Six years ago (come November), I was sitting across my soon-to-be ex-wife and a judge, as he signed off on the divorce she wanted. I walked her to her car and never saw her again. What I thought was ahead of me was the furthest thing from. I was stepping foot into my wilderness, without a clue where I was being led. Much like the story of Israel in The Book of Exodus, there was a promise for my life (not just mine but everyone) called purpose/destiny. We were all created to accomplish great things specific to the people we are. No matter how similar two people are, we are all intrinsically different - different on purpose for the sake of purpose.
While the Law of Freewill allows us to choose how we live our lives, our lives were intentionally crafted with purpose in mind. We even come designed with a built in alarm system of sorts; a warning system that sends intangible signals through our soul and being, that alert us when we are not living at full potential. We often confuse this alarm system for other things, because the symptoms are the same. We may experience depression, unfulfillment, discontentment, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, fearfulness and a myriad of other emotions.
These emotions are not always indicators of physical or emotional health issues. It may very well be that we are experiencing "purpose depression". Purpose depression is the alarm system we have been given, to alert us that we are not living as intended. This is where my life was leading up until divorce. Divorce was somewhat of the ignition or switch, that triggered the beginning of the wilderness season in my life. In the last six years, I was led to many different places, new encounters, new people, and new experiences that "awakened" my consciousness to a new reality - the reality of my true-self. Who I am today is so radically different than I was six years ago. It is radically different than who I was one year ago. As I began to understand the wilderness, I began to adapt myself to it. That's where I came to realize the beauty of the journey.
[The wilderness stands between every major turning point in our lives.]
My wilderness began with my thinking that I was "standing" for the restoration of my marriage. Which I did for nine months, until my convictions about it were changed through divine intervention. The journey I was about to embark on was the discovery of myself. No one would have been able to tell me who I was (even if they had the answer to give). For part of the wilderness experience is to cultivate a value system for things you never valued before. Values that revolve around your beliefs and habits. It is a "system" purge - all of the old must be flushed out and the new must replace it. We cannot enter a new season with old thinking. Jesus said "No one pours new wine into old wineskins..." (Mark 2:22). Jesus was also known to change the name of those who followed Him. Jesus told Simon that he would now be called "Peter", to associate the new identity to a new purpose - from fisherman to church founder/forefather.
Many others experienced wilderness seasons between major turning points:
Moses spent 40 years in the desert before being called to free Israel from Egypt. David spent 13 years running for his life, from his king and countrymen who wanted to kill him. Hiding in caves and living a nomadic life before he was appointed as the new king of Israel. Jesus Himself spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, to prepare Him for His ministry of the next 3 years. Harriet Tubman was a slave who fled and freedom, only to be called back to rescue others enduring slavery. Corrie Ten Boom survived the Holocaust, and lived to inspire the world through her courageous story. No one gets a pass through the wilderness. We all must make the journey at some point in our life.
[The difficulty and time spent in the wilderness depends on our willingness to learn its lessons. The more we resist the wilderness the longer it persists.]
We could perceive the wilderness as ugly and cruel. It can seem that way at times. But when we come to understand the value that life truly is, then we can understand why life can seem so abusive in the way it tries to influence us. It's life's way of screaming at us "You were made for more!" We were NOT created to live mundane, mediocre or complacent lives. Life tries to lead us peacefully in the way we should go. But do to our blinded awareness and limited conditioning/beliefs, we often need to have our lives violently shaken. We need something to "wake us up"!
While the wilderness season is not easy, we can make it harder. There is an easier path as well as a more difficult path. Jesus often said - "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." This was His way of saying "pay attention". We must be present in the wilderness to not lose sight. To be distracted, or resist, brings about further lessons and hardship. My best advice entering the wilderness is to pay attention at all times - listen, watch, understand, be curious in all things, yet attached to nothing (per se). Track or journal the process and refer back to it often, as the wilderness will constantly leave clues. Understand that the wilderness has a very specific purpose - to help you discover yourself (foremost). Understand that it uses confusion as its primary device in doing so.
The reason for this is because confusion creates curiosity. If there were no reason to ask questions, or a longing to pursue an answer, we would never grow, expand or learn. The wilderness is like the house of mirrors at a carnival or fair. Just when you think you've figured it out, you run into the reflection of yourself and must reroute. That is exactly what the wilderness is doing. It is forcing you to confront many parts of yourself, by running you head-on into it, so you can discover yourself - your true-self. As you ping pong around, running into one mirror, then another and another; eventually you find your way out. And by the time you exit, you have encountered yourself so many times, you finally see your true reflection.
Just as it is in the house of mirrors, you have to pay attention, move around, and adjust - always looking for the next route, clue, or path that leads you further. Don't fight it - embrace it! Go with the flow and stay present in it at all times. This is the easiest route to take.
[The wilderness is a gift you can only value after you've successfully conquered it. When you realize the value of what the wilderness gives you, you won't care what the journey was like to receive your reward.]
We are likely to experience several wilderness seasons in life; one major wilderness for sure. It sounds scary and daunting; I wont lie to you and tell you it isn't at times. But the reward from all you learn, and perhaps most of all, the value of being given the fullness of life by knowing who you are - makes it worth the trouble.
The wilderness is divine intervention saying to you - "You deserve to live and experience the fullness of life, and all of it's riches, beauty and blessings." After-all, we were not born to simply turn around and die. The wilderness is truly a form of grace. A grace that often saves us from ourselves. Without the wilderness, we would certainly die with these words on our lips:
"I wish I would have..."
Don't fear the wilderness. Be grateful that life and God value you too much to leave you where you are. Which for many people, is a very empty and meaningless place. The wilderness is a lifeboat dressed up like a hurricane. But through the storm is the secret to a meaningful life.