Lessons from the Wilderness

by Jimmy Pruitt


I love the scene from the epic movie Nacho Libre (yes, I said epic), where he leaves the monastery in order to go into the wilderness to meet his end. The camera angles lead you to believe that Nacho has traveled miles into the desert with no hope for survival. Then the camera pans to a group of children from the village waving at Nacho. When this happens it reveals that he has only traveled just outside the village. Not as dramatic as it first appeared to be.

Sometimes when an event occurs our minds will tend to blow it up to ridiculous proportions with all of the accompanying fanfare and drama. Our imagination runs wild and we play out our top three worst case scenarios. A little time passes, the dust settles and life moves on. It doesn’t look quite as bad as it did at first. As our family continues to navigate our own wilderness experience and as I add more resumes into the proverbial pipeline here are few observations or lessons from the wilderness.

  1. You Are Stronger Than You Think – When you first get the bad news, whatever it might be, it feels like you took a hit in the chest, you can’t breathe, you’re mind runs off into frightening places, fear rushes in like a tsunami and you think you can’t take another piece of bad news. But you can. You find that you are stronger than you thought you were. You will manage. You will make it. Life is not over. You find that you have reserves deep down that you didn’t know you had. You land on your feet because Jesus is there holding you up, even carrying you at times. He not only is in the storm, he walks on storms.
  2. The World Doesn’t Stop Turning – Life goes on. Friends and family will come to your side to support you, pray for you and just be with you. Brace yourself, just because your crisis is the center of your world, it is not the center of theirs and they will move on, some will even forget. Don’t bemoan this, you have done it to others in the past. You may just do it again. Have grace for them as they move on with life seemingly leaving you to continue in your struggle. It’s okay. Be grateful for whatever love and life they gave in your darkest moment.
  3. You Are Surprised at Who Sticks By You – Crisis has a way of scattering folks like a drop of mercury falling from a middle school biology lab table to the floor. Don’t be shocked. I shouldn’t say that because you will be shocked at who stays and who avoids. It will feel deeply personal, but most of the time it is not you, it’s their inability to navigate their own fears, insecurities or lack of knowledge on how to help. Some of those people will come back around when the crisis goes away. Love them anyway and extend unconditional love their way. Their reaction to your situation reveals more about them than it does you.
  4. You Realize God Never Really Left the Scene – When the bottom drops out we think God is like an icon of the past, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.” Trust me on this, God has not left the building. However, he may be silent for a season. I could do some theological acrobatics to give you a rationale as to why heaven goes into stealth mode during these times, but I just don’t know. How’s that for a pastor of 28 years with two degrees? I. Don’t. Know. Yet I trust that he has reasons that are just beyond my ability to comprehend. Trust. Just because he is silent doesn’t mean that he’s not present. In fact, he promises to “never leave you or forsake you.” I tend to stand on that when I’m hearing nothing but white noise from heaven.
  5. You Become Aware This is Basic Training that Positions You to Help Others – Yes it feels like it’s all about me when I’m in a crash and burn time. I think about me, how I’m going to manage, what I’m going to do, who I’m going to speak to about it, what my next move is. Did you notice the common denominator here? Yes, it’s me, myself and I. However, God has a way of turning our worst nightmares into another’s solution. As we navigate, grow, develop, learn and overcome we become the very person that is qualified to help others through their own crises. God is a great Commanding Officer. When it’s all over and you’re back on track, and you will be, you will see how this now becomes the equipment, tools, implements and ammunition that you will use to be a blessing for others. Now you’re the expert in overcoming that others will look to like a beacon in the darkness of night.

As I was thinking through these few points it occurred to me this could become a series before it’s all over with. You see, our family is not quite on the backside of our own crisis… but we will be. Perhaps more will lessons will come out of our wilderness season. In the midst of our dramatic meltdowns I have the image of the children from Nacho’s village calling out to him, “Hola Nacho!” He wasn’t as far away as he thought. Neither are we. Neither are you.