Earlier this month, I spent a couple of days in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. I took in the fall colors and spent two nights in the woods snuggled in a cocoon of my sleeping bag. I followed a trail that looped into the wilderness and went up and down over the ridge of the Massanutten Mountain.
The views were great, and on the whole it was an enjoyable trip. But not all of my trip was pleasing and agreeable. The trail was longer than I had hoped. The elevation gain got my heart pounding, and I had to stop and rest more often than I expected. At times I ran low on water and I got thirsty. And there were a few times I thought I’d lost my way.
Far from the maddening crowd, you will inevitably run into challenges that you will not find in the comfort of home. Out in the wilderness, you will be uncomfortable, off-balance and even a bit afraid. Wilderness has a way of teaching you things that you are not likely to know and experience in any other way. And, if you are open to it, you can learn a great deal.
This current moment feels like a sort of wilderness. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted family life, schools, work and shopping and dining. The election season has been has been contentious and divisive. The conversations about racism sparked by the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor leave many of us traveling through ground that is rough and unfamiliar.
When you are in the wilderness, it’s good to have a map and compass, plenty of supplies and a path to follow. If you’ve been out in the wilderness before, you are more likely to find the courage and confidence to get through the experience and even find it rewarding. Gil Rendle writes, “As a people of faith, we have a history of having been in the wilderness before, which should assure us of our own future in the wilderness of the current moment.” That’s encouraging.
As we make our way forward together through this time, we can look to God for strength and help and learn to carry everything to God in prayer.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Steve Larsen