All of us are born into wild country. As babies, we are born into families, societies and in geographic regions not of our choosing. We do not get the luxury of selecting our father, mother, or siblings, who we will—or won’t—grow up with. We cannot elect where we would like to arrive on the timeline of human history. We arrive as new characters in an old tale, one that’s well under way, and we’re forced to figure out what this life’s all about on the fly. Life is wild. Yet it is in this vast wilderness called life that each of us must be born if we are going to enter into all the beauty and wonder God has prepared for us.
We are all born into this wild world and there are two things we must accept about it. First, we were born with enemies—spiritual adversaries and human antagonists—and, second, learn to embrace the wildness of uncomfortable transition.
Born with Enemies
“Helpless with rage, the Dragon raged at the Woman, then went off to make war with the rest of her children, the children who keep God’s commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus”
(Revelations 12:17 MSG).
Jesus identifies this "Dragon" as our spiritual enemy (Satan) and his primary initiative is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). So what exactly has this enemy come to destroy and steal from you? If you’re a follower of Jesus, he can’t steal your eternal salvation—as Jesus said, “No one can steal them from out of my hand” (John 10:28 MSG)—but the enemy will attempt to raze and rob your life here on earth. Satan strikes when you least expect it—when you’re young, vulnerable and weak—and your heart is the target between his crosshairs. He knows if he can steal, kill or destroy part of it, you’ll never fully realize all you were purposed to be—never soar into the environment you were created for or ever be a threat to him. If Satan can crush your heart, he’ll steal the better life God desires for you—in the here-and-now.
Our spiritual enemy loves to influence others in his plan to steal, kill and destroy our hearts. Not long before Jesus was crucified, he passionately stated his intention to “go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive.” This is the very reason Jesus came—to redeem humanity's heart. Yet Peter protests “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”” Jesus responds, “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works” (Matthew 16:21-23 MSG). Jesus sees Satan working through one of his closest friend Peter and calls him and his spiritual enemy out. If Satan could influence Saint Peter, he can influence any of us humans. You don't need anyone to tell you this, you already know humans can be quite antagonistic. We will talk more about how to better handle both our spiritual enemies (in Skill 3: Spiritual Smarts) and our human antagonists (in Skill 5: Skillful Opposition) but, for now, we must accept these realities as true—if we are to successfully navigate our way through this wild country we call Earth.
Embrace the Wild
There’s one last thing you’ll need to know, before your orientation is complete. You’ll need to understand that your life was never meant to be comfortable. Life is wild, like the world into which you were born. It is full of change and transitions, tests, trials and wilderness seasons. Yes, the world into which you were born is quite wild and dangerous, but, whether you know it or not yet, so are you.
Transition is seldom comfortable, but is the only way we enter better dimensions of life. Babies grow to be children. Children become teenagers. Teens become adults, and so on. Life is a series of seasons, and there are certain environments that are appropriate for each season. My kid’s cribs were great environments for them to sleep in when they were babies, but they outgrew them in a few years. A nest is a fine environment for newly born birds, but only for a few months. We start out in the womb but are never meant to stay there. It’s a starting point, not a destination. The baby must grow and transition out of the womb into a dimension that is much larger, if it is going to survive and, ultimately, thrive. It must transcend. If it doesn’t, the womb becomes a tomb. What was once the cradle of life, becomes the taker of it.
Whatever environment you’re leaving, whether it’s leaving for college or finally leaving that constricting relationship, every transition comes with a certain level of discomfort and a wilderness that follows. This “wilderness” is an in-between state, and the new expansive environment, whatever it will be, isn’t going to be clear for a while. And after all, isn’t that uncertainty where much of the discomfort comes from? Whether it’s a long or short duration, the wilderness will demand that you do things you’ve never done before—breathe the air of a new atmosphere, soar on untested wings and roar out into its unknown. As you can imagine, the wilderness often leaves your soul feeling tired and weak—and in this vulnerable state—earthy antagonists and spiritual assailents will be there ready to take advantage, if they can. You will be tested and you will have to fight. A wilderness season is often unpleasant, if not unreservedly painful. If we don’t understand that transition and wilderness seasons are part of growing more internally healthy, mature and whole, we often end up believing that God has abandoned, abused or betrayed us. If we believe this, we will distance ourselves from Him—the only one who can make our heart whole and bring us into the life we long for.