Into the Wilderness

Today I need the wilderness.

I woke too early, with too little sleep, my eyes swollen nearly shut. I don’t know what set my allergies off again; it frustrates me. After breakfast I dozed on the couch until the senile dog set up a flurry of mad barking, at nothing, and I jumped up. Laundry. There’s always laundry to do on Mondays. I am tired of the dog and the laundry, of writing my novel and not writing my novel, of all the work I have to do, and of the fact that if I chose I could ignore it for another day. It’s hard to feel anything matters much, today.

Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.

What happens in our wilderness? This weekend my husband watched a survival show, in which contestants were sent naked into the Panamanian rain forest for twenty-one days. He didn’t tell me why they did it. I assume there must have been a prize.

Our prize is the Resurrection. It’s a pretty big one. On days like today, my grumpy self has trouble even imagining it: the gates of Heaven flung open in welcome to sinners, to me and to everyone else. An atheist friend once asked me, curiously, “So, your God requires that you not eat meat on certain Fridays? And that you give up playing computer games until Easter?”

“It’s not required,” I replied. “It’s discipline.”

“Ah,” she said. “Why?”

Because, like me today, we tend to get caught up in ourselves, in our tiredness, our work, our laundry. We attach too much importance to things that don’t matter. If we can brave the wilderness, if we can strip our souls bare, we can begin to remember what we need to survive. Exactly what, and no more.

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