As November rolls in with colder weather, shorter days, and darker nights, I find myself thinking about the imagery and symbolism of walking in the wilderness. In the Oxford English Dictionary, wilderness is defined as “an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region” and as “a neglected or abandoned area.”
Given these two definitions, I wonder why anyone would want to make a trek into the wilderness. Who would want to abandon the familiar and set out into unknown territory? Who would want to risk their lives in the wilderness, journeying across parched and barren land, unsure of what might be found on the other side? What is it about the wilderness that attracts some people to explore its surroundings while making others fearful of what is there? Of course, sometimes, we simply find ourselves wandering in the wilderness, not by choice but by circumstance. We can’t always avoid living in the wilderness of life where we find life hard.
From biblical times to modern times, we can find countless examples of people who have wandered in the wilderness and whose faith is tested as they respond to a call from God. In the Scriptures, Abraham responds to God’s call to leave his country and his family and is led into the wilderness on his way to a land that God would reveal to him. Moses is called by God to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt but must travel through the wilderness, which takes forty years, before reaching the Promised Land. After being baptized, Jesus is led into the wilderness and is in seclusion for 40 days and 40 nights, where his faith is tested and he encounters temptations to deny his calling.
In modern times, we see migrants leaving their homelands to escape violence and poverty in hopes of finding peace and a place where their basic material needs for food, housing, and jobs are satisfied. We, ourselves, can certainly recount our own wilderness experiences, whether material, emotional, financial, physical, or spiritual. Even now during this pandemic time, you might describe it as a wilderness moment, and for some it is a time of loss, emptiness, loneliness and despair and for others it may be a time of change and spiritual renewal.
A wilderness experience can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, burdensome and painful–a time of trial, of soul searching for understanding our situation, and asking why suffering is happening. It can also be liberating and humbling (once we pass through the rough terrain), teaching us reliance on a higher power to guide us and to lead us from fear to faith. The wilderness is a time of letting go of everything that has sustained us and turning to this higher power for our hope and direction.
What so many wilderness experiences seem to share is also a calling, a summons to go deeper, to trust in God’s providence for us. It is in this calling to something new, to something better, and to something greater than ourselves that our wilderness experience has the power to transform us and our relationship with God and others. We may be uprooted to see life through a new lens, a lens that beckons us to be of service to others.
Have you found yourself wandering in the wilderness, wondering how God is calling you? God may be calling you to become a Sister. Do you hear his voice in the wilderness? If so, contact us to start a conversation about how this voice and this calling is manifesting itself in you.