The gift of Wilderness time


“When you pray, go into your room and shut the door…”

Matthew 6:6a

These are words taken from the Gospel for the First day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. They speak to our need to be apart, our need to retreat, the need for wilderness, that is, a solitary and simple place. We are forced to feed a new desire, the desire to escape the busyness of the moment.

Jesus models this well in a number of places in the gospels even if the people give him precious little space to enjoy such solitude.

Yes, Good News needs to be proclaimed.

Yes, there are always good works needing to be done.

But since, you and I as Christians are being called to do this for a lifetime, we need to feed the soul that is being called to repeatedly act out such vital ministries.

There is seldom a perfect time to go apart, to seek the wilderness moment. And yet, we know we must. And not long after that solitude is embraced we feel the re-filling of our souls, we sense the re-kindling of our energies, we know the Spirit within has been, at long last, released to nurture and to encourage and to enliven our starving and parched being.

How can I reach another soul without first nurturing the one within?

How can we touch another with God’s healing grace before we ourselves know that same touch deep within?

How can you say another good word to the world beyond if this same empowering word is not allowed the time to echo within the many caverns of your own inner being?

Leo Tolstoy once said, ‘Everybody thinks of changing humanity, nobody thinks of changing himself.’

My father enjoyed telling a story taken from his own father’s ministry. My grandfather was also a priest of the Church. One day a parishioner raced into my grandfather’s office at the Church of the Comforter in Toronto. He found my grandfather kneeling in prayer. The first words that came out of that parishioner’s mouth: ‘Great, you’re not busy!’

Not busy! It seems that we are always free to do but seldom free to simply be; to be still and know that God is God. Let’s embrace our Lenten wilderness as the gift it is:

A gift of God for the people of God.

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; by the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 — Michael Wright, Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston, S.C.