The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . .
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1:1-4 adapted
I met my friend in the wilderness the other night. Well, it wasn’t exactly
the wilderness, but it was a bar of sorts, which for me still qualifies as a
real and somewhat alarming wilderness, being the good Christian girl I was
raised to be. She was late and I sat there in the dim light trying to appear busy
on my phone and constructing to-do lists on the white placemat in front of me.
She arrived full of unnecessary apologizes which I quickly brushed aside
and we dove in head first. Between us there’s little need for small talk and
right there in the middle of that noisy wilderness we each pulled open the
layers of our lives and sat back, listening through tears as our hearts talked
This is the friend who tells me how her marriage really is, tenuous and
struggling, and shares how she slapped her son in a moment of exasperated rage
that has melted now into a messy pile of regret. She is the one I can tell how
I yelled at my own son, threw a royal tantrum of rage that scared him and me
and how we all ended up on the couch in tears trying to figure out how that day
could be redeemed.
* * *
I have to admit that I never really liked Maurice Sendak’s book, Where
the Wild Things Are. I tend to like books that are warm and pretty, books that affirm my need
for a world that’s safe, orderly, and predictable. But, it’s possible that the
fact that I don’t particularly like the book is an indication that I do get it,
a little bit at least. What I do understand is that Max is struggling with the
wilderness, with all that is wild and untamed both inside and outside of
Something about the unrelenting, all-humbling job of parenting leaves me all
too familiar with this wilderness. If my life were a children’s book, then one
might notice a forest of sorts growing in my house most days right around four
pm or any other time that happens to be about an hour before my husband is due
home and a half-hour before I lose it.
Too often by that point the day is been played out – patience is gone. I’m
wresting dinner onto the table while kids are whining, fighting, hanging and
swinging off of my legs like the little wild things they are. By then we’re all
wearing our wolf suits and if the windows are open the whole neighborhood can
hear the roaring, gnashing of teeth and rumpus that ensues. As a parent, as a
human, I’m well acquainted with wilderness and wild things, within and without,
but it doesn’t mean I like it.
* * *
It’s significant that the gospel of Mark places the advent of the good
news of Jesus Christ right smack in the middle of the wilderness. This gospel
has no time for angels, places no stock in genealogies or other such small-talk
as a means of introducing the striking, challenging figure of Christ who
emerges in the pages that follows. Mark begins like my friend and I do, by
peeling back the layers and starting not in the skies full of stars and angel
choirs, but on the bare, dusty, rocky ground of the wilderness.
Something about this gives me heart, gives me hope, as this first week of
advent is designed to do. Something about it resonates with the prophecies of
Christ and the prophets who spoke them, those craggy ill-kempt men and women
who lived on the edges and thereby lived and spoke that much closer to the
heart of things.
The good news begins in the wilderness. What a challenge, what a hope.
* * *
The friend I met with told me how she’d shared with her counselor that she
has few real, close relationships, few relationships where anything beyond the
bright cheery small-talk of this season might be appropriate. Her counselor
said, “Yes, but what about this Kelly? It seems like you have a real
relationship with her, why do you think that is?”
My friend, God bless her, said, “Kelly’s real. I mean, she told me she
threw an apple peel at her children, for goodness sake, so I feel like I can be
my real self with her.”
After telling this story she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said,
“Why is it so hard to believe that our humanity is what’s most attractive
* * *
Oh, my friends. How deep and wild is the wilderness within you? Who do
you have who’s willing to meet you there?
* * *
This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ – the One who came
and dwelt among us, who meets us in the fullness of humanity. Christ, who
“sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over
a year” to meet us here, “where the wild things are.”
I’m so grateful for my friend who gave me permission to share from our conversation – she’s one of the flowers in this beautiful field.