What Happens in the Wilderness – Raised Catholic 141

The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode.

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Today is episode 141: What Happens in the Wilderness

Hi friends. When it comes to the practice of our faith, there are so many of us out here in a kind of wilderness these days. Whether you find yourself in the pews regularly or not, you might have a sense that things in the American Church are not as they should be. For many of us, there’s a disconnection from community, a feeling that some of the grown-ups in the room have lost their way, and a sense that when it comes to our faith, we’re kind of on our own. This is the wilderness, and for sure it’s a place that no one wants to go, but when it comes to the history of our faith, a wilderness experience is not new.

Lots of characters in the Old Testament spent time in the wilderness: Sarai, Jacob, Elijah, David, and many others. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt through the wilderness to the promised land. The prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus by calling for the people to “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days, a time that echoes the forty years that Moses spent there, and Paul spent three years in the wilderness after his conversion. 

Though not uncommon, the wilderness is a challenging place to be – we are disconnected from community, we have very real needs that are unmet, we may find ourselves questioning just where God is in this wilderness, and how long will we be here, when will He help us? Many saints including Mother Teresa experienced a time of spiritual wilderness, often called a dark night of the soul, when God feels distant, when we may even feel abandoned by God, and we don’t really know which direction to turn or what to do to get ourselves out of it.

Without the anchor of a church community or maybe even within the walls of a church, many of us today feel unmoored, disconnected from the practice of our faith, but at the same time we can’t assent to some of the things we’re hearing many clergy and members of the Church profess these days, things that just don’t sound like the Jesus we know. So, we feel stuck, banished even, in a kind of wilderness.

So, what happens here? What is a wilderness for? What can we learn or even gain from this painful time? Here are a few things that could give us a lens on a wilderness experience that might help.

The first thing is that, even though it doesn’t feel like it, in the wilderness, you are actually headed somewhere, you just might not know where that ‘somewhere’ is quite yet. But wilderness isn’t sedentary because God who loves us is always at work making something new in and through and around us. So, no, the wilderness is not permanent. We don’t ‘camp out’ here, but we do move through, with a loving God guiding our steps.

In the wilderness, you learn to listen in the silence. Now, I don’t know about you, but silence can be tricky for me sometimes, but the truth is that God speaks in the silence if we will have ears to hear. Jesus often went off by Himself alone to hear the voice of God. Here in our wilderness, we too have access to that voice – God who longs to speak to us. If we draw close, we might hear Him much more clearly here in this time than we have before.

In the wilderness, we learn what is essential. We shed the things, beliefs, or habits that we never really needed to begin with, and we center in on the critical and fundamental parts of what we believe and why we believe it. That’s a good thing, and such good fruit of a wilderness season.

The wilderness is lonely, but out here we learn that we are never really alone. As we grow in strength, perseverance, determination, and focus, it is God’s Spirit within us that helps us to grow. 

In the hardest season of my life, for sure a wilderness season, God would give me pictures during the savasana portion of my weekly yoga class. I’ll link to some of what I wrote about this time in the show notes for you, but basically, spiritually speaking, I was in the deep water. As the weeks went on in these kind of pictures in my mind, I would be treading water, sometimes floating or swimming, sometimes honestly feeling like I was drowning. I’d be on the lookout for boats and sometimes one would come by. Each week, I would long to put my feet down on solid ground, but I just couldn’t find it. Maybe that kind of unmooring is a feeling that you can identify with in your wilderness season. Well after many months, in my mind’s eye, I stepped on a stone and eventually made my way onto a patch of grass by a lighthouse. More happened after that, but this is probably enough ‘woo-woo’ for this episode. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that a time of wilderness can take much longer than we would like. It feels so uncertain, sad, and even a bit scary, but a time of wilderness is a time of training for what comes next. And friend, there is something that will come next. That’s a promise – not from me, but from God who sees you and loves you more than you could possibly know.

There is a scripture I’ve kept on my bathroom mirror for literally years now. It helps me to connect with the truth of a supernatural God who makes things happen that we could not expect or create, this God who is for us, who sees the wilderness we’re in, who is present with us there, and who knows exactly what is on the other side. 

Isaiah 43:18-19 reads:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

A way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Oh gosh, I love that.

As we close, friends, let’s just take a minute to close our eyes (though not if you’re driving, please) and let’s imagine ourselves alone in a forest at night with just a backpack. It’s dark and dense, and we’re a bit turned around, hungry, and thirsty, and we have no idea in which direction we should go next. We’ve been out here for a long time. Maybe we sit on the forest floor for a while, frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. Maybe we walk or climb to get a different perspective. Maybe we pull out the guidebook from our backpack and try to make sense of the map. Maybe we cry or sit in stony silence, sometimes, because we don’t know how we got here, and honestly, we don’t know what we are supposed to do. There are no experts in the wilderness. Along the way, we’ve shed much of the bulk in our backpack because we just couldn’t carry that stuff anymore. We’re feeling tired and hopeless and ready to spend yet another night in the dark. But then, all of a sudden, a way appears. A spotlight illuminates a path that is clearly the best way out. We didn’t have to find this way or make this way, it just appears. Friend, how would that feel? We’d be relieved, energized and we’d probably get ourselves moving because now we know the way. As we walk that path, we find ourselves different now. We’re strengthened by the time that we spent in the wilderness. We have a better sense of direction because we’ve practiced right and wrong turns over and over out here. We’ve left behind the things we did not need because now we know what those things are. Our eyes are better able to see the way now and our ears are attuned from the time we’ve spent in the dark. And then, we feel a hand in ours as we finally begin to make our way home. As it turns out, we’ve never been alone in the wilderness, not for a minute.

This is the wilderness, and this is how God uses a season of wilderness for our good, in love, for you and for me. If you’re disconnected from a church community or if you’re sitting in pews wondering whether there’s more of God to experience than what you are currently hearing, friend, that’s because there is. God is so much bigger than we think.

I believe that if we’re mindful and if we use this season of wilderness well with prayer, study, caring for ourselves and others, there will be a day when we see the way appear and when we start walking it, we will find ourselves stronger, clearer, and more determined than we were before. We’ll know our destination. We will know where we want to go, and how to get there, and that way is not perfection, by the way, but it is holiness, and most importantly, we’ll know that God has been with us the whole time. The wilderness is not easy, there’s no doubt about that, but if we find ourselves here, let’s invest in this time. Let’s lean in and learn to listen to the whisper of God even out here, because there is no place where God is not, and in God’s great love for us He is always, always leading us home. 

Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites, at Substack at kerrycampbellwrites.substack.com, or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend.  That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a couple of ways for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Oh God, when it comes to the practice of our faith, you see right where we are, and you know the way forward. God, we are not lost because You are the way. Help us to draw close to hear you so you can bear good fruit in us in this time of wilderness. Thank you for helping us to truly know that you are always at work making a way where there was no way, and that you are making all things new in love. For us and our dear ones too, we pray in the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of our Mother Mary, amen.

Well, thanks so much for listening today, friend. I’ll see you next time.

Show Notes 

This week we explore what happens in a time of spiritual wandering, disconnection from a church community, or wrestling with the ideas of practices of faith. Some call this time faith deconstruction but it sure feels like a kind of wilderness. It’s a place no one wants to be, but if we find ourselves here, there are ways we can use a wilderness time well.

If you’d like to connect with me, ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠find me on Instagram⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠at my website⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠, or ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠on Substack⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠. If you’d like to ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠help support this podcast financially⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠, there’s a way to do just that ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠on my page at buymeacoffee.com⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠! Thanks for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow.

Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.

Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:

1. ⁠Deep Water: Raised Catholic episode 12 transcript with link to listen⁠

2. Reflection by Kerry Campbell: ⁠Trust: My Life as a House⁠

3. Reflection by Kerry Campbell: ⁠Anchor⁠

4. Article: ⁠What does it mean to have a wilderness experience⁠, by Got Questions

5. Book: ⁠Learning to Walk in the Dark – Because Sometimes God Shows Up At Night⁠, by Barbara Brown Taylor

6. Music Video: ⁠Drawn to You⁠, by Audrey Assad – please watch this one.

7. Song: ⁠Find You Here⁠, by Ellie Holcomb

8. Video Teaching Series: ⁠Memorial in the Middle⁠, by Beth Moore

9. Song: ⁠Hosea⁠, by the Monks of Weston Priory

10. A Blessing on The Business of Hope-Making, by Kate Bowler:

Dear One, may you have the gift of holy sight,

the vision of what might yet be.

Yes, the emptiness is there.

It could have been different, but this is what it is

and there is just a little moment here – a half a breath

where something new might be made, might be seen.

Just give it a little room to be.

There is nothing mechanical about living.

There is no step-by-step process by which good things can be found.

There is no paint-by-number on this one.

All we have is the strange truth that somewhere in us, 

because we are made good

is the ability to make.

All we need to do is just give it a minute to be born.

4 responses to “What Happens in the Wilderness – Raised Catholic 141”

  1. MK Avatar

    Wow! So love this! Beautiful writing and compilation.

    1. kcampbell116 Avatar

      Thank you so much!

  2. Melina Balboni Avatar
    Melina Balboni

    How beautiful these words and images are in bringing God’s wilderness to life. You have a gift, Kerry. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. kcampbell116 Avatar

      I appreciate this and you, Melina! <3

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