The best kind of wilderness begins a whole day's hike in from the trail head, where the expanse of mountains, prairie, lakeshore, or desert land spreads out untainted and seemingly endless. The sunset's flaming colors paint soul-stirring magic on the wild countryside. Only the campfire, moon, and stars light up the black night. Only coyotes and owls, the crackling fire and the whispering wind break the stillness of your humbled, inspired thoughts.
Threads of thought tangled by the stresses and trauma of life begin to uncoil that first night in. Perplexing problems start finding solutions. The soul relaxes from its daily strain and hears more clearly its own voice and that of its Lord.
God used the wilderness to shape many of His human heroes. Before Moses confronted the king of Egypt and led Israel to the Promised Land, he spent 40 years in the wilderness communing with God and herding sheep. Before beginning his mission to the Gentiles, Paul spent time alone in the Arabian desert studying, meditating, and praying. John the Baptist spent most of his life in the wilderness, and it was there that he received his education for his life calling to announce Jesus as Messiah. Jesus Himself spent 40 days in the wilderness, to be alone to contemplate His mission, to fast and pray and brace Himself for His work—and be tempted and overcome sin on our behalf.
Time in the wilderness isn't wasted. Though no goods are produced, no words spoken, nobody influenced and no "good deeds" accomplished, time apart establishes clarity within one's thoughts, strengthens faith, and cements one's goals and life purpose. It gives the soul space to see and hear and understand God.
Out in the woods of the back 40 acres, the Iowa wilderness stirred my soul. White tailed does scampered out of my way as owls hooted and songbirds twittered. The wind rustled in the fallen leaves, and chattering squirrels scurried up regal old oaks. And the voice of the Spirit whispered inside my soul.
My wilderness isn't far from civilization, but that makes little difference. What matters is the delicious hollowness in my heart—emptiness, silence, openness; a quiet, undemanding readiness to be filled.
For at its core, my zest for the wilderness is a lifelong quest for peace.