Saturday, February 13, 2016

Of the Wilderness and the Dark Wood

Although we are still at the edge of the wilderness and still relatively fresh into our Lenten journey, it has already been filled with challenges and things to think about.  But it has also been full of some surprises too.  Adopting spiritual and life practices during Lent are an important part of the journey, especially when facing temptations and such while in the wilderness.  That's what can make giving something up all the more difficult.  This year, I decided to give up Facebook and social media, but at the last minute decided to also give up meat and dairy (except fish) by doing a Daniel Fast with one of my friends.  While it sounds extreme to give up both, it gives me more time to contemplate, to feel what those who may not have enough to eat go through, but also cleanse myself and re-fill myself with wholeness and new vitality.  But shopping is such a challenge, meaning avoid the snack aisle and the seasonal aisle!!  Talk about temptation right there.  Just as Jesus faced those temptations by the Devil in the wilderness, it's easy to fall to the temptation of those bags of candy.  But at the same time, eliminating a lot of things will help in being filled with a whole new sense of health, vitality, and wholeness.  It takes discipline and focus, something that the wilderness can offer.  

During Lent, I have also added some extra reading and meditating and was presented with a book by Rev. Eric Elnes called Gifts of the Dark Wood, as we can also enter into the dark woods along with the wilderness.  Upon reading the first chapters, I was definitely struck because it is also written for "soulful skeptics" which I admit I tend to be.  But what really struck me was in the introduction where the author hears a voice during a swim in a mountain lake while breaking from a hike.  Eric Elnes writes that he hears, 

"You have a place in this world; a place where everything comes together in your body and you disappear into a seamless whole.  Get over your clumsiness, and your fat little belly, and inhabit this world with your fullest self" (xiii).  

It almost brings to mind a hit song from 1990 by Michael W. Smith, "Place in This World" whose chorus goes

Feels like I'm
Looking for a reason
Roamin' through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Rev. Elnes brings up an important fact in the introduction and first chapter that too often, we spend our time searching for our place in this world even with all of its pitfalls and challenges, or unrealistic expectations that revolved around success.  Sometimes, wandering through the wilderness and the dark wood gives us the focus to help us pay attention and listen for God's voice which helps show us where our place in the world is at.  Eric Elnes explains that "sometimes it takes a journey into darkness, even deep darkness to fully awaken to the smallness of our success-based world.  Sometimes you need to lose your way in order to discover the grandeur, mystery, and freedom of the world that awaits you" (5).  And getting lost is okay (Barbara Brown Taylor has a chapter on "The Practice of Getting Lost" in her book An Altar in the World).  It's in those moments of being lost where we tend to find God and in those moments of darkness.  What do you think your place in this world is?  What are you doing to reach your fullest self?

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