I’ve worked with a couple of people who had wilderness training. I forget the acronyms exactly, but they had been through intensive study and practice of surviving in the outdoors, in the wild. Among the tests are figuring out sufficient cover, finding sustenance from the foods that grow indigenously, and knowing when and how to get out when things get dangerous.
I haven’t had such intensive training, but I know how to find some of those things, and especially how to help in emergency situations. I’ve spent my fair share of time outside, camping and backpacking in a number of different settings. When you set up camp, there are a number of things to take into account. One of the first I learned was making sure there are no rocks that will jab into you when you lie down to sleep. Others are looking at the land, making sure that if there is a surprise rain shower, you’re not going to be sleeping in a puddle, and knowing where you are, and if you need to string food up in a tree, so a bear won’t get it.
When I know that I am going out into the wilderness, I make sure that I am wearing good, sturdy shoes, and that I have enough supplies both to get where I am going, and enough to come back.
When I think of the outdoors, I generally think of a forest, with a path blazed by those before me. I think of the clicking of the cicadas in the trees in California, I think of the raccoons that will stop at nothing to get into the trash in Georgia. I think of sand gnats and mosquitoes that delight in any exposed skin in Florida. I think of nights devoid of the constant stream of vehicles and other sounds of massive groups of people up on the Appalachian Trail.
Not all of the great outdoors look the same, though. Some are full of forests and trees so big you can’t reach around them. Some are great expanses of swamp and prairie. Some are so limited by the amount of water that everything that exists in them are specially adapted to living with very little.
Sometimes the outdoors is a wilderness. A wildness that cannot be tamed. A wild place, where nights are cold, and days are unbearably hot, where there is no water to be found for miles, and where everything has extra protections and is designed to sting, burn, and snap.
That’s the kind of wilderness in Judea. The wilderness where the only thing that you should know is that you should not be there. And yet, that’s where Jesus was sent to by the Holy Spirit. That’s where Jesus found strength and the words of scripture to defeat temptation. That’s where Jesus can come to meet us, too, if we feel trapped in the wilderness.