The Wilderness & the Gift of Slowing Down


Today I saw a link to an article by Ed Cyzewksi. The title is “Why We Need the Wilderness.” It struck me because the wilderness is where I’m at and where God has been drawing me for some time now. I was taken up with a few specific words in the article:

Americans are a people deeply invested in doing. We’re optimistic work-a-holics who have a reputation for taking a fraction of the vacation time that the rest of the world deems essential. As a culture, Americans aren’t very good at withdrawing from much of anything. When we burn out, we immediately blame ourselves for not being strong enough, not being resilient, not being organized, or not hiring someone to help us do more.

If we try to fix a problem, we tend to fix it by adding “something” else to the mix rather than subtracting…

Goodness, we are good at continually adding stuff to he mix rather than subtracting. This is so true for myself. I’m currently in a process of considering what needs to be subtracted from my life. I’ve become clear on a few things, but there may be more.

These words of Cyzewski reminded me of similar thoughts from Thomas Merton in his Thoughts In Solitude.

The Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men. The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing. There was nothing to attract them. There was nothing to exploit. The desert was the region in which the Chosen People had wandered for forty years, cared for by God alone. They could have reached the Promised Land in a few months if they had travelled directly to it. God’s plan was that they should learn to love Him in the wilderness and that they should always look back upon the time in the desert as the idyllic time of their life with Him alone.

The desert was created simply to be itself, not to be transformed by men into something else. So too the mountain and the sea. The desert is therefore the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be nothing but himself – that is to say, a creature solitary and poor and dependent upon no one but God, with no great project standing between himself and his Creator. (pp4-5)

I want to create more space in my life because, well, I’ve had very little space in my life. There’s really been no self-care at all, which doesn’t bode well in navigating through life with all its many facets. I’m not speaking of some “your best life now” self-care. I’m talking about real care for oneself in the midst of all the “stuff” in life.

I recently began reading Peter Scazerro’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. In one place, he speaks about “the gift of slowing down.” Think about that: the gift of slowing down. That’s not normative language in our society.

Slowing down is a gift; but it seems to be that the wilderness is the place where we learn to truly slow down.

Anyways, I share these thoughts that come out of my own dusty, dry, yet thirsty heart. My hope is that, together, we may see things subtracted from our lives, being drawn into solitude, wilderness, while learning to embrace the gift of slowing down.

Lent is just around the corner – starting March 1. Perhaps it’s just the right time.

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