Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Didn't get a chance to finish your story? Purchase a day pass digital subscription and you'll receive unlimited online access for one day (24 hours). You will have immediate access upon completion of your purchase.

Have you thought of COVID-19 as the wilderness times and places in your life?

Have you been having difficulty finding God in this wilderness?

You can find union with God in both the physical and spiritual experiences of wilderness.

We can find it by caring for ourselves.

We can renew and deepen our connection with God for the rest of our lives as a result of these wilderness wanderings.

In the book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” young Max gets in trouble, and is sent to his room without supper.

He is transported to a place where the wild things live. He intimidates them into believing he is their savior and they rolic through the woods and play all day, until Max gets homesick for the very one, his mom, who vanquished him from the supper table at home.

Sounds a little like Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son who goes off to have fun, but misses supper and home. He deeply regrets his actions and returns to his very happy father, who is compared to God receiving us back to Himself when we go off on our own in the wilderness of life.

These are stories that remind us we can find union with God in both our physical (being hungry in body) and spiritual (being hungry for home) experiences of wilderness. We didn’t necessarily misbehave and have been sent to bed without supper. But even during this time of COVID, rioting, violence and political upheaval, that has been forced upon us, we can find union with God.

We can be joyful even in our mourning of so much loss and pain these past six months.

We can believe God offers us a light at the end of this tunnel of frustration, anger, and anxiety because God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

We can find union with God by caring for Creation while we are caring for our physical and spiritual lives.

Those of you who love the outdoors, hunting and fishing in the wilderness helps you to forget the manmade wilderness at home or school or work while you commune with God’s Creation. This can even be done with a walk around a block or two because the leaves are especially beautiful this autumn.

Communing with Creation frees one’s spirit to solve a problem or challenge that is on your mind and may even lower your blood pressure and stress level.

So, enjoying creation helps us to care for ourselves and our bodies, physically and spiritually in union with God’s Creation.

It is possible, then, during these seasons of wilderness with their misunderstanding, mistrust, isolation, cynicism, criticism, injustice, to name a few, to become seasons of renewing and deepening our connection with God by purposely enjoying the sight of autumn beauty all around us, the smell of the autumn breeze, the crunch of the dry leaves beneath our feet, and the resulting renewal of our spirits in union with God’s Creation.

Of course, we can renew our spirits in union with God by joining together with other persons to help encourage and support one another, doing random acts of kindness for others, reading the Bible and devotionals, attending worship at your chosen house of the Lord. God promises that something good will come from even the worst of circumstances and God certainly promises His presence with us through every step of wilderness we may encounter, and we absolutely cannot be separated from the love of God as we are reminded in Psalm 139 and in Romans chapter 8.

The Rev. Audrey Westendorf is the pastor at Janesville United Methodist Church.