I am signed up for the 2024 Israel trip led by Pastor Jim. It is high on my bucket list! At the planning meeting on Sept 7, Pastor Jim showed pictures of the biblical wilderness – places that Jesus frequently visited for prayer and renewal. But why wilderness? What is unique about Creation’s “wild” places? Do you enjoy a wilderness experience or prefer to rest in a more “subdued” setting? When I was teaching in Pennsylvania, my students were asked to conduct an “ecosystem study”. They were to select an area on campus about 20 X 20 feet and study it for the semester.  What lived there? How were the species interacting? How did it change with the seasons? Most of my students welcomed the opportunity, and for some, it was a life-changing event as they “discovered” God’s Creation for the first time. They had never taken the time to carefully consider, examine, study, and enjoy even a small 20 X 20-foot section of the Creator’s “canvas”. But for a few students, the assignment was not, at least at first, a welcome experience. They had grown up in the “concrete jungle” of Philadelphia, and even stepping off a paved path into a wooded area was a frightening experience. For me personally, I would be equally challenged to be turned loose in their neighborhood.  Their home turf was way outside my comfort zone.

But what about wilderness? Is it necessary, and for what purpose?  For me personally, I need time in a place to re-charge my mental and spiritual batteries.  Solitude provides a space for spiritual prayer retreats and a time for devotions. I am fortunate to live on Whidbey Island where wilderness is close by in the form of parks, woodland, and beach walks.  Early mornings for me are best when my senses are keen, and I can soak in the sounds, sights, and smells that ooze from the pores of Creation. Christ entered the wilderness to pray.  It is indeed a healing place.

But wilderness is also critical for God’s non-human Creation.  It is where the footprint of humanity is significantly less and where God’s non-human creation can carry out its uninhibited fruitful existence. For example, where in Washington State can one find the full complement of species from the tiny soil dwellers to the apex predators?  Can we make space for the full complement of Creation? Many would say “not in my backyard”! We do not want wolves, grizzly bears, and cougars roaming our neighborhoods! Wilderness is not a safe place!!! But are we willing to set aside sufficient space for God’s Creation to function in its full integrity and fruitfulness? Yes, there are a few wolves now in Washington State and perhaps a dozen grizzly bears in the north Cascade Mountains.  But even Yellowstone National Park is far too small to maintain viable populations of all its species. Creation’s Corner #13 was titled “How Much is Enough”. How would you answer that question?

Thanks for listening.

— Joe Sheldon

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