A chosen wilderness

We all find ourselves in the wilderness sometimes.

I’m not referring to the physical wild places in nature (much as I love those). I’m thinking instead of those uncomfortable inner experiences of wilderness where we are left wandering outside of our usual routines with our familiar landmarks nowhere in sight. We find ourselves outside of our comfort zone and unsure of the way home in the desolate, unfamiliar landscape we find ourselves in.

Life’s broken places—losses, heartbreaks, illnesses, traumas, injuries, and setbacks—are usually the harsh shoves that force us into these seasons of wandering in the wilderness. We don’t choose them and would do anything to escape them.

Despite the discomfort and desolation these seasons bring, they also bring rich gifts as they strip away the dross of our lives to let us see more clearly what’s real underneath. I’ve written before about the gifts of the desert and how to hold onto those gifts after we return from the wilderness, so I won’t focus on that here.

What I’m more interested in is what it looks like to choose the wilderness. I recently came across a comment about the season of Lent being like a desert time or a chance to enter into the wilderness. It was accompanied by this quote:

“What if we view this desert time of Lent as not just a time to reflect or to lament or to confess or to fast, but a time where we learn to be free.” ~Megan Westra

Whether you celebrate the Lenten season or not, this idea prompted me to ponder what it means to choose to dedicate a time to intentionally entering the wilderness, choosing to wander outside our comfort zones and familiar patterns for a season.

Rather than waiting until life forces into the wilderness, what would it look like to choose it intentionally as part of quest to grow and to deepen our inner freedom?

Is that not a deepening of kintsugi living to choose spaces that help us shine our gold by nurturing our growth and healing?

For some people, traditional Lenten practices of giving things up to enter the wilderness through making space by letting go (even temporarily) of distractions or pleasures may be an optimal way of finding an entry into wilderness wandering.

For others, adding a new practice (like meditation) or learning a new skill (like how to better handle conflict) might be a better opening into a space of wilderness through the stretching discomfort of the trial and error that comes with new things.

Others may find that spending a season in intentional deep reflection through journaling or therapy with a focus on healing and growth may be the most effective route into that wilderness space.

For many of us, I suspect a combination of all three of these things—stripping away, deep reflection, and new practices—work best in synergy with each other to create the most effective doorway into the uncomfortable yet fruitful space of inner wilderness.

Life has been pushing me hard in the last year into wilderness spaces of my own as I’ve faced one setback and challenge after another. I feel pretty beaten up and exhausted with trying to keep it all going.

These experiences have me questioning and challenging long-standing beliefs about how life works, what I want and need in life, and what will best help me thrive. Having those foundational assumptions so shaken up is the epitome of wilderness wandering.

As usual, though, I’ve put a great deal of energy into trying to side-step as much of that journey as I can even though I know from experience just how fruitful times like this can be.

I’m starting to think that the best way out of this wilderness space is through it and that maybe choosing to enter more fully into the wilderness wandering instead of avoiding it may help me find the other side more effectively with greater gifts to bring with me.

I’ll be actively seeking out ways to do that more effectively in a purposeful way in the coming days to seek out the freedom that comes with that kind of growth.

How have you chosen wilderness wandering in your life over the years? What works for you to help you more fully enter into that space with purpose?

I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Image created with a stock photo from a Canva subscription package.

If you’d like to receive more inspiration and encouragement for living your own kintsugi life, subscribe to get notifications of new blog posts in your inbox.

5 thoughts on “A chosen wilderness

  • March 1, 2023 at 7:38 am

    A few minutes after posting this blog post, I turned to my email and discovered a waiting email from Richard Rohr on the exact same topic (that’s much more eloquent than I am). Clearly this is something really need to focus on right now!
    You can read his email for today at https://email.cac.org/t/d-e-zdddluk-tlkrtrllkk-f/

  • March 1, 2023 at 8:52 am

    Helpful reflections! I have to say that job and/or educational path changes have been the big wilderness choices for me over the years. It’s only been recently that I’ve let myself spend time focusing on enjoyable hobbies during those times (rather than focusing on the changes/wildernesses alone). I think this hobby time has been helping me on a level deeper than mere distraction. Still exploring what that means, though. 😉

    • March 1, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Thank you, Callie! I appreciate you sharing how your hobby time is helping you beyond distraction only. That’s something for me to think about!

  • March 1, 2023 at 11:23 am

    When I first found myself in the roles of caregiving and accompaniment in loved one’s end of life journeys pain and grief was all I saw and tried to alleviate with constant care and companionship.
    Over the following years as we lost many dear friends and family I entered into the faith and acceptance of loved ones whose faith fueled in them deep inner joy. Caregiving is a time of deep love on this sacred part of the life journey.
    Beautiful life/lives are cherished remembered gifts and farewells, though deserts for those of us left behind, connect us to the holy, eternal and hope of reuniting with those who have gone ahead of us.

    • March 1, 2023 at 6:42 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Liz! That sounds like a lot of loss, and I’m glad you have found some beauty even in hose farewells.

Comments are closed.