A return to journaling reminds me how much time it takes to sort through the mundane and the chatter to hear what really needs to be heard. I suppose it’s not unlike sitting to talk with someone for an hour or more and the most important topic of conversation coming up as you’re headed for the door. We have to take time with ourselves. We have to take time with one another.
Journaling during Lent inevitably includes reflections on “wilderness,” what it means, where it is, what it’s teaching me or has already taught me. As I talk with and relate to more and more people, I realize that whatever our differences or seemingly polar opposite existence, our humanity is our common ground. Our choices–and the choices made by others–determine our place in the world and create for us our personal wilderness(es). We may go through one over and over again, but chances are there are many iterations. Details change, but we’re not so different after all.
Regardless of what kind of wilderness we’re going through, as humans, we can relate to one another. It’s not a competition to see who has survived the worst circumstances, though it’s easy to get drawn into the drama energy of comparing tragic, seemingly unimaginable horrors. Relating to others means listening to other people share their story, hearing what they are giving witness to, and understanding even more deeply what they are not saying that is truest of all.
Whatever our wilderness, the place/circumstance is not conducive to a sustainable life. A wilderness is a place where wild animals roam, where there is no social order, where one has no sense of direction and becomes easily lost. If we have someone alongside us who affirms us in goodness and gives witness to the love of God, it’s easier to find our way out of the wilderness.
For some of us, our faith is that constant companion. For some, it’s that soul friend or relative who helps maintain our way in truth and light. Some need whole communities to keep them bolstered. Some are wandering, caught in the bramble and choked by fear that wilderness can fuel and ignite, hoping with fading hope that someone will find them.
But how do we know who’s in a wilderness time/place? Your wilderness could be my everyday existence, my normal, even if to you it seems like a nightmare. The truth is, we don’t know if we never connect, and we won’t know if we make judgments and decisions before our paths have even met.
If we relate with one another, if we listen deeply and truly to one another, imagine what kind of experience it would be to navigate the wilderness together, not comparing our experiences but walking alongside one another.
An image of school children comes to mind: one fallen in the dirt, hurt physically and in pride, and another catching sight of her peer. She could leave her down and alone and considers for a moment pretending she didn’t see. But their eyes meet for just a split second. The injured one looks quickly away, preferring to look at the dust and the blood. Surely there is no hope. But the girl walks toward her and offers her hand. Not a word, not a tissue, but herself. Together they go forward and find something they didn’t even know that they needed or wanted.
Thank God we don’t have to navigate the wilderness alone. We can, but we don’t have to. There is joy to be had, but we have to be willing to look for it, to see it, to hope for it. Sometimes we have to be willing to offer our hand. Sometimes we have to take the hand that is offered. Love works like that, even in the wilderness.