Wilderness Curriculum

Well, we have collectively flipped our calendars from March to April. I for one, was happy to toss old March into the trash can and be moving on to a new month, one that traditionally brings hope, renewal and happy memories.

As I stared at a big, blank April, something annoying and unwanted popped into my head clear as day: the T.S. Eliot poem I had to memorize and analyze my junior year in high school:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering earth in forgetful snow… “

The Waste Land

What the heck? I hadn’t thought of that poem in years. For the person struggling with disillusionment, the soul in despair, the arrival of spring only reminds them of painful memories. The author longs to stay in winter, where the dull and lifeless landscape matches his heart. It’s all quite depressing.

The Band-Aid got ripped off in March, abruptly and without much warning. It hurt, it shocked, and has been stinging ever since. A few weeks in, we have had some time to digest and adapt to this new normal, to mourn our losses big and small. But does April have to keep stinging? Does it really have to be the cruelest month?

I’ve been wandering outside a lot lately. In search of spring, on the hunt for any small sign that things are as they should be. And to my relief, I can report that even here in Colorado where spring sometimes doesn’t arrive until summer is knocking at the door, the dull things are becoming colorful once again.

I turn on the news and I hear that April will indeed be a cruel month. I turn off the news. I talk to a good friend who is actually doing this quarantine thing pretty well, and I am encouraged. She jokes she’s tired of the goofy memes and the big opinions, and I agree. It was good to snack on for awhile, but we need some nourishment if we are going to come out of this healthy. There has to be something underneath, something that sustains us besides all the silly quarantine candy we are feeding on.

Spend time in the Word. Attend virtual church and even happy hours. Make family meals together. Go do something for the neighborhood. Be comfortable in your own skin. Think on what is good.

As April looms in front of us with no real concrete plans or answers, I think about how natural it is to float through in survival mode. However natural it may be, the thought of simply existing and reacting for thirty more days makes me nauseous. The news cycles and the hot takes have started to lose their appeal. If March was the ripping off of the Band-Aid, I would like April to be a kind of balm for our collective wounds.

We are in the wilderness, but God gives good gifts in the wilderness, just as He does in the land of milk and honey. If you remember your Old Testament, Israel didn’t do so well in this area. They grumbled and complained and wound up going in circles for years. They longed for Egypt just as our poet desired an eternal winter. Here’s something to consider:

O, how God must become weary with how often we question his itinerary for our lives. How often we think we know better how to get from here to there! We are so much more prone to grumble with the conductor when the train turns south, than we are to sit patiently and wait for lessons from the Lord. He is a very mysterious guide. We never quite know what is coming next. God would never make it in the travel industry because he is always leading his best clients into the wilderness. He even led his own Son into the wilderness forty days. So it’s clearly not because he has something against people that he leads them into the wilderness. He must think there is something good to be gotten out of it. He must think there is no hurry to glut oneself on milk and honey.

In fact, he tells us that the prosperity of the promised land is so dangerous to our souls that only the recollection of some sobering wilderness weaknesses and wonders will part the river of our self-sufficiency and pride from flooding our lives and drowning our faith.

John Piper

We should be very careful about what we wish for and wish away. Maybe our promised land lies somewhere up ahead in May or June… I hope it does. But a return to all the calendar-filling things in life won’t fulfill us in the same way. Egypt is behind us, the Promised Land still lies ahead. What will we do in this wilderness? How we respond makes all the difference. Take a trip through Deuteronomy 8 and remember that the wilderness is not a waste. There is good to be had, and refining to be done.

Let’s flip the script on fear. Let’s go all-in with the wilderness trip not because we love the desert, but because we love and trust the God who is leading us through it.

6 thoughts on “Wilderness Curriculum

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  1. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that goodness await us just as the Promised Land was in the Israelites’ future and there is value in the wilderness experience. I hope that you have read T.S. Elliot’s The Four Quartets–a little more hopeful than The Wasteland.
    Wishing you a very blessed Holy Week. Karen

    1. Thank you Karen… I haven’t read it!! Looking it up now! The great thing about being at home for hours on end… thanks again!

      1. I hope you like it. It’s pretty deep. Eliot takes Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity and examines them in light of his questioning. He also tries to write like Dante and Yeats in this poem. He finally comes to the belief that all shall be well when the fire and the rose are one – when the Word and Meaning are one – when the spiritual and the physical are one. Enjoy!

  2. Amen. There is something Our Almighty prepared for us, we just have to ready our self for it. This too shall pass. It was a nice to visit your blog the first time, I will surely come back for another visit.
    By the way, I am a new blogger and I hope you can support me. Just recently, I made a challenge to my self that I will be visiting 10 blogs each day for the next 21 days. During my visit I will leave comment and at the same time I will put your blog link on my post. Hope you can visit me too and leave a comment to my blog. I followed your blog too.

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