Often in life we can feel like we have been cast off to the wilderness, alone, forgotten, perhaps feeling persecuted. Cast off by society, because of something we did or due to circumstances beyond our control, it matter's not how we get to those wilderness places, but we all can find ourselves there at times, physically or metaphorically.
We are deep into the story of David, Jonathan and Saul in our Hebrew Testament reading. David is on the run from Saul's murderous intent, helped by Jonathan. He is running in the wilderness, away from that which is trying to harm him. David came in from the wilderness, appointed by God, through the prophet Samuel, as Saul's successor. He was the youngest son, a shepherd and physically was brought in from the wilderness to be anointed the coming king. He is now back in the wilderness, alone but for a few with him, trying to find safety. He will return to the wilderness again later in his story because of his betrayal of a trusted friend and advisor, Uriah, but that is later in the arc of the story.
In the Gospel of the Mark today we have Jesus first going to the sea and then to the mountains, where he "called to him those whom he wanted" and appointed his 12 apostles so he could send them "out to proclaim the message and to have authority....." Jesus often retreated to a quiet place, away from the crowds, to collect himself, pray and allow himself time to get ready for the next thing. There were times he would retreat to these wilderness places because of failure, or persecution, and sometimes simply to seek rest and renewed strength through prayer.
In the arc of the story that is our individual lives, we will have times of finding ourselves in the wilderness. Remembering these accounts of those who have gone before us, and survived in their own ways, can be useful in our staying faithful in those times. Remembering that although we may feel alone and forgotten, that is never the case. The love of God for each one of us can be palpably felt in those wilderness times if we only allow ourselves to be open to that embrace. Just as David and Jesus are in their own wilderness areas today, we know they come back from those experiences and accomplish unimaginable things. The same is true for each one of us.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: P-Town Flats, 2007. jfd+