As I have been in the midst of a wilderness experience for the last 16 years which has mostly been a succession of two year mini wilderness excursions, I have come to realize that the places the Spirit has led me have never been just about the tasks at hand but about the work God was doing in me. This Lenten Safari is no different in that the important external work God is calling you to beyond the wilderness, requires you to do the internal work while you are in the wilderness. It is the hardest yet the most important work you will ever do, because it requires you to remember who you be so that you can embody the life you were created to live.
To do this work, however, God has to have our full and undivided attention. Since many of us tend to have the attention span of a gnat, this usually means that God has to get us alone, remove all the crutches that have been propping us up, and peel back all the pretenses. It is not a pretty nor a comfortable proposition, and that is partly the point, because comfort has the uncanny ability to lull us back to sleep, while a little pain and discomfort will wake us up like a cold shower. Case in point, before I went back to the states in November for the holidays, I had two interesting conversations with two different Guatemalan men who asked me about being alone here. Initially, I thought they were asking me about being single, but I could tell that my answer did not really respond to the question that they were asking. It was not until later when I reflected on both conversations together that I realized they were really asking me about being alone here as a Black person. Then I also remembered that about eight months earlier, a retired pastor, who is friends with the executive director had asked me a similar question. He asked me how I was adjusting without a Black community here; he was thoughtfully offering me some pastoral care, and I believe the other two gentlemen were genuinely concerned as well. One is a merchant whose store I have visited several times, and the other is among the first people I got to know in Guatemala, because he works at the metal shop near the apartment where I lived when I first moved here. These three men confirmed that God had my full attention and each of them, in their own way, gave voice to the pain of my wilderness experience, and when we open ourselves to the truth of our pain, no matter how agonizing, that truth has the power to heal us.
For, sometimes it is the pain of aloneness and isolation in the wilderness that makes us realize what we otherwise would not have come to understand. Sometimes it is in the midst of the pain of aloneness and isolation in the wilderness that God opens up new pathways for the pursuit of our purpose and the fulfillment of God’s dated, delayed but never denied promises. For me, the pain of aloneness and isolation during this last two year mini wilderness excursion in Guatemala has helped me grasp that home is where my heart is, where my call will be cultivated, and where my healing will help liberate others.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.