What does this word mean to you? The desert and mountains of the Middle East, the rolling plains of America with tumbleweed blowing across the landscape, or the frozen tundra and steppes of Russia, white, cold and unforgiving?
Any or all of these images can represent that feeling of being lost, abandoned, isolated, fearful, sad and hopeless.
As Christians, most or all of us will at some time have a wilderness experience. A time when we lose sight of God, when we lose that precious awareness of His presence. We can fool the world that everything is good by going through the motions, we can even fool ourselves for a period. But…there comes a point in our experience when we can no longer pretend, we are confronted by our personal absence from His presence.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed, guilty, hopeless and exhausted, any, or all of the above, and yet our isolation is an illusion, a deceit. Our way back into the presence is just one tiny step of faith away.
The prodigal son certainly knew what life in the wilderness felt like. As is so often the case, it was only when he hit absolute rock bottom that he found the courage to take that first tiny step of faith. The part of the story which speaks to me, even resonates with me, is the response of his father. He didn't stand at the end of the road, stern, challenging, he didn't stare reprovingly, waiting for his wayward son to crawl back. He ran, wildly and exuberantly to meet his son, flinging his arms around him and weeping tears of utter joy at the return of his son. The Bible tells us that he had been standing watching, waiting for his son for days. WOW!
When we find ourselves in the wilderness and come to that point where we are finally willing to take that first small step of reconciliation our God, our Heavenly Father doesn't stand aloof. He runs to meet us, He weeps tears of joy as He embraces us and celebrates our return.
Wilderness experiences are painful but our rescue is always only one small step away; a simple prayer and a heartfelt desire to take shelter in the arms of our loving Heavenly Father once more.
Our wilderness experiences can be a catalyst, leading to renewed faith, strength, hope, purpose and anticipation. As I shared with our Bible Journaling family, I have had my time in the wilderness over the last few months, finally I've taken that first small, tentative step back into the Son light. I have been so blessed by the encouragement of so many of you and I am already feeling the stirrings of my old excitement spending time in the Word, in prayer and in worship. I'm looking forward to journaling the story of the prodigal son but I won't be focusing on the carousing, wild living, pigs! I’ll be focusing on the Father, Abba/Daddy, running to welcome his son home.