When I was in seminary, I had a friend who created a ‘zine. If you don’t know, ‘zines are ramshackle, hand-made, homegrown, hand-xeroxed little magazines that give full creative control to the editor. They were usually free, and often distributed just by leaving them around in places where people would find them. My friend asked me to write for it – and I did. I was 24, and struggling mightily with what God wanted me to do. I was early on in an abusive marriage, and not yet sure of myself enough to stand up against that behavior. I was a mess. And yet, my friend thought my voice would be a good one to share with those seeking Jesus in one way or another. I wrote under the pen name, “Lucilla Midnight,” hoping the etymology conveyed my struggle at the time between the light (lucid) and dark (midnight). My friend asked me to write at the beginning of Lent. This is what I wrote. I've come back to it many times over the years - and find that it holds reminders I still need, especially in seasons like Lent. I hope you are blessed by it. – Carrie, 2019 <3
The wilderness ain’t that bad of a place to be. There’s manna here, and the old “comforts” that distract and insulate either aren’t here or don’t work any longer. It’s desolate in places, but it’s also wide open. Anything can happen, anyone can approach you from any side. There’s no one way in or out of the wilderness – not out here. Plus, if you look around on the ground a bit, you’ll see on the ground around you the footsteps of the One who was here before you. You can see when & where He walked, sat down, rested, stretched out in the dust, heck there’s even tear-tracks and spots of dried blood along His trail. But as soon as you see a bit of His path, there’s this voice behind you, above you, within you, saying, “this is the Way; walk in it.” And as soon as you hear that voice you realize, “hey, He’s still here now.” You’re not alone in the wilderness. You may feel lost, you may be tired and hungry, you may be sun-burned, battered, and bruised. But you sure as heck ain’t ever alone.
Every now and again, you’ll see another body who’s in the wilderness, just like you. And you’ll say, “hey” and they’ll say, “hey” and that’ll be it because maybe by that time neither one of you has the strength to say anything else, but you’ll see it, right in their eyes that you’re a comfort to them, and they to you, and each of you knows it and sees it and that makes you closer than two brothers’ll ever be because in that moment of seeing and knowing you’ve both seen and been a gift of God.
I’m an old woman when I’m in the wilderness. I’m not sure why. I’m really only twenty-four, but when I’m out there wandering around on the cracked earth with dusty sandals, looking all around me, I feel just as cracked and dusty as the parched earth I’m standing on. I ache and shuffle my body around. My limbs aren’t young or strong. They’re old withered sticks with strings of dried-up muscle on ‘em. My skin is sun-browned and wind-burnt; the creases at the corners of my eyes and mouth might be from crying, or laughing, or squinting at the sun. Really, it’s all three together. That’s how I come to be so old in the wilderness.
But I talk to God in the wilderness. Crackpot old crone, face full of dust and distrust, I lose all pretense out in that desert. I see me because God sees me but then God tells me that I’m still only twenty-four and young and strong because He made me so – but it’s okay and I don’t have to be those things yet. He takes my hand and pats it like the dry leaf it is and says, it’s okay not to feel young and strong all the time. God is kind and lets me be an old woman for a little while yet, because I have to. I’m still in the wilderness. And the wilderness is something that strength and youth won’t get you out of. Only God can do that. It’s Hiswilderness.
Now, heck, that don’t mean God likes it when you feel bad, or that He doesn’t care about the places you put tear-tracks in the dirt right next to His. He doescare. That’s why you’re in the wilderness in the first place – because it’s clean, it’s quiet, and because it’s a good working ground. Things can happen in the wilderness sure as heck that wouldn’t happen anyplace else, and God knows this. He put all the other stuff farther out of reach, over the horizon so to speak, to keep it off your mind so’s you can attend to what is really going on that God wants you to see. That’s the purpose of the wilderness. Not to keep you from the rest of life, but to teach you to see clearly enough for you to deal with it all. Awful dust-up sometimes, the rest of it; lights flashin’ and horns honkin’ and people shouting at one another. Not so in the wilderness. No – in the wilderness, God puts you a fair distance from all of that. But you’re still never alone out there.
You know, much as I don’t enjoy the wilderness – the thirst, the hunger, the tears and tired eyes and achy feet – I think everybody ought to find themselves a wilderness. Not to end up there, mind you, but to pass through so’s they can learn things and if they happen to come across somebody they can look in that person’s eyes and be a comfort to each other and they can know, see and know, that they both are and are being given, the greatest gift of God. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Love. All’s even in the wilderness. God made it that way. He Himself is there to see to it, and to see to it that everybody there can see and know the gift of God they get and are – so’s they can take it with them when they go.
- Lucilla Midnight, 2001