The Wilderness as a Life-Saver

Views over the Chisos Basin and surrounding desert from Emory Peak, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Views over the Chisos Basin and surrounding desert from Emory Peak, Big Bend National Park, Texas

When I was (somewhat) young, my parents purchased a cassette tape with a talented voice actor telling the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  He read the words straight from 1 Kings 17-18, but his voices and inflections made it a mainstay of entertainment for my siblings and me.

Miller Point Overlook at sunset, Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

Miller Point Overlook at sunset, Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

The interesting thing about Elijah’s life is that whenever a new story begins, it’s likely that he’s out in the wilderness for one reason or another – sometimes it’s because someone wants to take his life, sometimes because he was sent there by the Lord, sometimes no reason is given.  But it seems like Elijah spent much of his life out in the wilderness.

Palm trees in the desert near the Palm Bowl, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Palm trees in the desert near the Palm Bowl, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

At times, the wilderness for Elijah was more than just a place to live – it was literally a life-saver for him.  The barrenness of the area meant no one wanted to go there.  So what was death to livestock and townspeople was a haven of safety for a man running for his life.

The area around Saratoga Springs from on top of a nearby hill, Death Valley National Park, California

The area around Saratoga Springs from on top of a nearby hill, Death Valley National Park, California

The wilderness has been a haven of refuge for plenty of people on the run.  Jews during the reign of the Greeks sought refuge in the mountains around Israel.  Outlaws of the Wild West turned to the desert when things became too “hot” for them in law-abiding territories.  Some reformers of the Reformation had to hide from those currently in power and found refuge in the wild places.  Even Jesus went into the desert places when “there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).

Crossing the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness in northwestern New Mexico

Crossing the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness in northwestern New Mexico

Recently, doctors have spoken about the benefits of being out in “nature”.  They’ve even begun giving prescriptions that require people to walk outside for a certain amount of time every day.  There’s something about the wilderness that remains a kind of “life-saver” to this day.

The area surrounding Chaco Canyon as seen from the Pueblo Alto Loop, New Mexico

The area surrounding Chaco Canyon as seen from the Pueblo Alto Loop, New Mexico

Most of us don’t have the “privilege” of running from people who would be just as happy to send their soldiers after us to kill us.  Most of us don’t live with the knowledge that if we see someone, anyone, they could be the one who goes to the evil ruler to tell of our whereabouts.  But many of us find ourselves in places where people are “coming and going, so we don’t even have time to [think clearly]”.

Views from the Grapevine Hills in Big Bend National Park, Texas

Views from the Grapevine Hills in Big Bend National Park, Texas

And so the wilderness becomes a life-saver for us.  Not to hide from the evil around us, per se; but to get away and rest for a while.  To refocus and reestablish who we are in Christ; to return to our first love with Him and to hit the “reset” button in our lives.  Stress melts away there – and that really is a life-saver.