Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world.

Into the Wilderness

by Mark Douglas

Newest "Travel With A Purpose" seminar: Eco-Kayaking




An “eco-kayaking” trip in the Bahamas in January 2011will be a first for the CTS Center for Lifelong Learning. Mark Douglas, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, and Steve Harrington, Senior Pastor of Sunnyvale (California) Presbyterian Church, will lead a group of pastors, educators, and lay people on a five-day sea kayaking trip in the Bahamas. The CTS Lifelong Learning program has offered a number of valuable “travel with a purpose “ seminars in the past – trips to the Holy Land, the Carolina Low Country, and various pilgrimage sites – but this kayaking exploration is the first trip of its kind.
Why go into the wilderness? Because we may discover something of GOD there.
The Bible, after all, is replete with stories of those who – while in wild places and away from the relative comforts of home – were transformed by their encounters with God:
Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness of Beersheba. Moses and the burning bush at Horeb. The people of Israel at Sinai. Elijah at Horeb. Jesus after the temptations. Paul and his shipwrecks.
Consistent and pervasive, the biblical pattern of discovering God in the wilderness reminds us that we worship a God of wild places.
Why go into the wilderness? Because we may discover something of OURSELVES there.
Travelling into the wilderness may lead us to think again about what it feels like to be displaced – which, from the Christian faith perspective, is something of a permanent (though largely ignored) condition.
At the same time, it may lead us to think again about what it means that this world is our home – which, from the Christian faith perspective, is a reaffirmation that it is all God’s world.
Making our way from place to place through only our own power, we become reacquainted with the possibilities of our own bodies and the power of our own wills.  
And, in a culture that promotes ease and consumption, living without some of the comforts of home may help us to discover we don’t need everything we think we need, and we aren’t everything the marketers tell us we are.
Time in the wilderness may help us discover something about where we are, whose we are, what we are made of, and who we are not.   
Why go into the wilderness? Because we may discover something of the WORLD there.
The natural world is a far wilder and more complex place than our provincial and culturally-shaped minds sometimes recognize. In the wilderness, we can discover a world that is both more resilient than we sometimes fear and more fragile than we are often willing to admit.
It is populated with plants and animals we haven’t yet learned to treat as if they are on this planet only for our own benefit, and – as we encounter them – we can be reminded that our time on the planet is more limited, our impact on the planet is far greater, and our connections to the planet run far deeper than we often realize.
Why go into the wilderness? Because time in the wilderness can reinforce our awareness of just how deeply CONNECTED we are to others, to God, and to the natural world.
In a time of dramatic ecological change, we need to nourish those connections for the good of all life.
So: Why go kayaking in the Bahamas in January and have the opportunity to discover such things? Surely that question can only be rhetorical!