Reflective Paper: Insight in a Frozen Wilderness
In January I went snow camping. Late in the afternoon we ran out of water, so as the sun was setting I strapped on the snowshoes and headed for the nearest valley, hoping to find a stream to get water for dinner. It is both beautiful and eerie walking through the frozen woods, watching the glittering patches of gold in the snow are slowly consumed by the blue shadows. Twelve hours ago I was sitting at my computer with a café latté in my hand. Now I am crunching through a frozen wilderness trying to meet my most basic needs: warmth, water, food.
The wilderness re-assigns value. The things that naturally surround our lives—the meat pots that sit by each door—vanish and all that is left in an hostile horizon of barrenness. Needles of pain enter our stomachs, and cotton enters our throats. In the wilderness, if you hang on to what little you see, your are disappointed. How refreshing the waters looked at Marah; and then the taste—bitter! In the wilderness you are tormented by the memories of happier days of serving our slave-master sin. We were slaves, but the meat-pots satisfied our stomachs. In the wilderness, some lessons must be walked through twice, and “Meribah” only increase their bitterness when we have to walk through thirst again.
But through the empty hole in our stomachs we are able to glimpse our souls. If they are alive they thirst and hunger. But for what? Can it really be—those little black marks on the crinkle-thin page of my Bible? Can it be that man must live, not by what goes into my mouth, but what comes out of God’s?
I reach the bottom of the valley and find water, gurgling and spinning beneath the soft lumps of snow. It is almost dark when I return to the snow cave. We start a fire. Think of that, a fire in the snow. Instead of the snow extinguishing the fire, the fire burns out the snow and turns all the dark corners of our campsite into soft shapes of gold. I sit there in the snow, moving my hands forward for warmth, looking at the light, mesmerized by the dancing motion. Then like the light flashing and flickering in the darkness, words come to mind and flash and flicker through my soul. Little black words I once read on the crinkly-thin page:
Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"
That is the miracle of my life. That my soul was thawed by words. The lonely days of homeschooling, the shame of it from my older siblings and friends, the confusion in Europe and the girl I had to leave there, and the continual suffocation from institutionalized Christianity left me wandering in a frozen wilderness. Now to live in a valley surrounded by all that glitters; houses with neat-cut lawns and shiny new cars, high-powered professionals with plastic-perfect smiles, and media-numb friends whose greatest virtue is their cozy niceness and masking sarcasm. It is both beautiful and eerie; because while it glitters and sparkles it is frozen, and to walk across it with “feet shod with the Gospel” is too hear snow crunch beneath your feet.
We learned in Boy Scouts that frostbite is a danger when you are snowcamping. They were careful to tell us the symptoms and taught us that if your hands or feet get so cold that you can not longer feel pain for a sustained period of time the tissue is beginning to die. Soon it will turn black, and when it thaws it will have to be amputated. I wiggled my feet in my boots, feeling a dull pain. It is good news because it means that my feet, wrapped in my cold wool socks, are still alive.
Perhaps it is the same for the soul. When I crunched down into the valleys of a world of frozen pain, at the bottom, gurgling and swirling, I tasted water. It was like hot Gospel-blood pumped through frozen tissue. I began to wiggle with pain because I was alive. I drank of your word and it began to thaw my soul. And now, I feast.