There will indeed be angels in that wilderness. That is a piece of wisdom from Reverend John Ames, which lately has been bumping around in my head. I've been thinking about wilderness.
Remember this verse?: "And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old ... wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness ... wherefore, we did mourn out our days" (Jacob 7:26).
I've always been struck with the sadness of that verse. But in some ways I know what Jacob means; I'm acquainted with that mournful, dream-like texture of life. I think we all are. My aptly named cousin, Sage, put it this way: "I straddle worlds in so many ways." Heavenly and earthly, liberal and conservative, classrooms and living rooms, the circles of friendship and family and religion and culture and nationality. Each one of us is in the middle of a ridiculously intricate and many-circled Venn diagram.
But I think we're maybe supposed to feel like wanderers. Or at least it's normal. In Hebrews 11, Paul remembers that his Old Testament forefathers "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
The psalmist pleaded, "Hear my prayer, O , and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I a stranger with thee, a sojourner, as all my fathers
physical, emotional, circumstantial, psychological, or spiritual, wilderness Abraham "sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:9-11).
She judged him faithful who had promised.
He looked for a city whose builder and maker is God.
Wilderness is the barren space from which we are most likely to reach out, beyond the tactile in-your-face-ness of mortality, to the stillness and serenity that is God. And we choose to trust in that stillness, that promising somethingness. We choose to judge Him faithful. Without periods of unleavened bewilderment, we would never know the delicious rising of choosing hope.
I love Earth. Mortality is breathtaking, baffling, and beautiful; poignant and profound. But I guess I'm giving myself permission to sometimes feel like a stranger here. Unequipped, unsure, foolish, frustrated.
I'm saying that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness. That wilderness itself is evidence of God's presence, not his absence. That folly lies not in feeling estranged or abandoned, but in abandoning God. We all travel peaks and valleys, but God is the ultimate reality - the ground we tread, the sun and moon above us.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35, 37-39).
We cannot be separated from God's love. Even (or especially) in times of drought or famine, living water is real. Grace is sufficient, abundant, shaken together and running o'er. Christ invites, Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.
I don't really know if this wandering babble is making sense, but I want to end it with this hymn which has been singing itself again and again in my head. I love how it describes wilderness and the need to have our hearts bound to God:
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
With Peter I cry, "Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Help me in my life to see wilderness for what it truly is: your love.