By now you know that I love the wilderness. There is something about being in a place bigger than you are that challenges and enriches in a way that a trip to an urban location just cannot do. I have written before about how God has used the wilderness in dealing with his people on more than one occasion and how it seems that the wilderness has a way of getting our attention. However, I believe there is more to these wild places than just being remote from the normal pace of life. There are some real and important lessons for us to learn here.
Let me see if I can relate some reasons why you choose to leave behind Wi-Fi, cell phones and cable TV, not to mention restaurants and a soft bed? Let me see if I can make a case for seeking out things that the modern world cannot provide that you yearn for and need to find. When it comes to renewing our relationship with God, that is something that Google cannot help you find. There are at least three things you can find when step out of the world of modern convenience into the wilderness.
You can find a sustainable pace to your life. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a sustainable pace to your life? Have you thought it would be great if you were not rushing from one appointment or deadline to another? One man suggests that busyness has only deepened our starvation for experiences that cause true transformation. Before you rush on, to your next appointment, let that statement sink in. Has your busy schedule starved your experience of transformation? Are you living on past encounters with God, hoping to make it to your next day or time of inspiration? If you are, it is time follow the example of Jesus, who regularly withdrew either by himself or with his disciples to have some time to rest, renew his mind, pray and prepare for the work ahead. It is time in the wilderness that helps us find more peace and productivity by following this model of ministry given to us by Jesus himself. Time on the mountain, and in the mountains provides the rest and renewed perspective we all need to be more wholly devoted followers of Jesus Christ back home.
A second reason to seek out a wilderness experience is that it helps you let go of the burdens you carry. Remember the words of Jesus: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). Burdens are part of life, it is how we carry them that matters. As Jesus looked at the burdens of his day, he chose a surprising strategy to change the world. He chose a small group of people and used the wilderness to take the time to talk to them about what burdened them. In that setting of the distraction-free wilderness setting, he was able to settle them down, take their burdens from them, so that they could go out and run free as world changers in a culture that desperately needed their message of Good News. What makes us believe we can manage our time with our smart phones, or that multi-tasking is now the God designed way to change the world. If you are looking for a lighter burden, maybe it is time to follow Jesus out in the wilderness where he can settle you down, take your burden and send you back into the world to be world changers that are so desperately needed in our time. You just might find that “multi-tasking” is just another excuse for not being in tune with God!
A third reason for seeking the wilderness is that the wilderness frees us from the traps of entitlement.
The Psalmist invites us to this journey when he writes: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Once again I am borrowing from another, but this observation is important. If you rarely take time to retreat and ask the Lord to search your heart and show you your sin, then you are likely to be building on the sand of entitlement. Once again don’t dismiss that thought quickly. How many times don’t we justify our actions by saying “I deserve this.” I have been so busy; I deserve…. (You fill in the blank). Jesus knowing how enticing entitlements were used the wilderness with his disciples to sever those entanglements that choked their faith, or as the author of Hebrews states: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1). However you will not recognize those weights unless you take the time to let God point them out and to do that you will need to slow down enough to let God speak to you and once again remember he does not book appointments with you, we need to seek him out and be still enough to listen.
That is our invitation and our mission at New Trails. We invite you into the wilderness to find a sustainable pace to your life, work balanced by rest and nutrition. To find a burden that is light, as well as to hear once again from the Lord who called you into this place of ministry and service. Then to take the time to ask the question of the one who loves you with a never ending love to show us where the entitlements of life have taken root so that we can continue to serve as wholly devoted followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. While I cannot say God does not work in the Holliday Inn, it seems that his major focus has been in the wilderness.