Following God Into the Wilderness

A couple of months ago I decided to read the Bible differently than before. I’ve always tried to wrestle Knowledge or Truth from the Holy Scripture. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not so much.

This time around I’m trying to read more as if I’m having a conversation with God. It’s a subtle difference. But an interesting one.

For instance, I most recently read how the Israelites left Egypt and 430 years of enslavement behind and began a new adventure in the Sinai peninsula. Their response? Ungratefulness. The same sort of whining pit of despair that I all too frequently throw myself into, face first. In Exodus 14:12 the Israelites give words to the way far too many of us live, in our horrible little suburban lives, protected and paved, walled off from the world as God created it – It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!

The thing that makes this passage interesting – startling, really – is the fact that just an hour or two before reading this section of the Bible I was listening to a recording of Edward Abbey reading from his book Desert Solitaire about a search and rescue team and what they found – a corpse in the wilderness. Here’s Abbey’s take:

Looking out on this panorama of light, space, rock and silence I am inclined to congratulate the dead man on his choice of jumping-off place; he had good taste. He had good luck – I envy him the manner of his going: to die alone, on rock under sun at the brink of the unknown, like a wolf, like a great bird, seems to me very good fortune indeed. To die in the open, under the sky, far from insolent interference of doctor and priest, before this desert vastness opening like a window onto eternity – that surely was an overwhelming stroke of rare good luck.

I have no idea on earth what God may be attempting to teach me about this matter. But when it comes to freedom, to slavery, and dying in the desert it seems that God and Mr. Abbey clearly agree. A person could do worse.