Wilderness experiences

TO many who traveled to the old West, the wilderness seemed a place of dark savagery and lawlessness, and contrasted sharply with the order and harmony they had left behind. But some individuals were able to gain a different view of the wilderness; they learned to love the purity and freedom it offered. Many of us have undoubtedly had our own ``wilderness'' experiences. Mine came when I moved to an unfamiliar town to accept a teaching position. I had left friends and family to live alone with none of the even commonplace luxuries I had been accustomed to having, such as a television or stereo. I had looked forward to solitude. Instead, I found myself experiencing a severe, gnawing loneliness after coming home from work each evening. As a Christian Scientist, I turned to the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In the Bible I read the account of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness and noted that the experience had not weakened him but had strengthened him for what followed after his return. And in the Glossary of Bible terms in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy, I found this metaphysical interpretation that shows two different views of the term ``wilderness'': ``Loneliness; doubt; darkness. Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence.'' 1 I saw that my loneliness stemmed from the belief that I had left goodness and love behind--that I was separated from these essential qualities. I turned to God in prayer and continued to study the Bible and Science and Health. I knew that I needed really to understand that the goodness and love expressed by my friends and family did not originate with them but actually came from God, who is Love itself. I remembered that the Apostle Paul said that nothing could separate us from God's love,2 and so I reasoned that Love must always be present; space and time could not separate me from the All-loving. Those realizations were the first steps out of the darkness. As I studied and continued to pray, to commune with the one divine Mind, receptive to its pure, healing thoughts, I became inspired and joyful. I was learning more about God and learning that as His child I am complete, inseparable from Him. The loneliness dissolved. Soon another teacher became a close friend, and I became involved in school activities, which were blessed by my increased understanding of God. I felt I had more to give than ever before because I was acknowledging the source of all real giving. I had gained much strength from my wilderness experience and had learned the importance of seeing the spiritual facts instead of being taken in by appearances and the moment's circumstances. If we're experiencing despair or doubt as a result of relationship difficulties, financial lack, illness, or any other problem, there is a sure solution: turning to the one source of all good--God. Even if the picture looks hopeless, it is not to be feared as an immovable reality. Reality is entirely good, the outcome of God, so whatever isn't good can be exposed as illegitimate and disappear from our lives. Each of us is infinitely precious to God. He will never desert us. He can and will ``furnish a table in the wilderness.'' 3 If we are willing to trust our spiritual sense, we will see the ever-present qualities of our Father-Mother God, who gives us ``beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mou rning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.'' 4 There is no need to change locations to get out of desolation. The unchanging qualities of God--such as purity, individuality, strength, freedom--are right here. God is as close as our thought, always enabling us to exchange the material sense of things for the spiritual sense. 1 Science and Health, p. 597. 2 See Romans 8:38, 39. 3 Psalms 78:19. 4 Isaiah 61:3.

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