Wilderness = Resistance
What are we running from when we find ourselves in the Wilderness?
We’re running from ourselves.
What’s really going on in any Wilderness Passage is that, at the level of the soul, some primal change has initiated itself. Our true identity/calling/vocation/gift has begun to stir within us.
This immediately evokes Resistance.
The more profound the change stirring inside us, the more monumental (and the more diabolical) will be the Resistance we feel.
Resistance’s sole intent is to STOP that positive evolution.
Resistance will try to blow up that evolution. It will distract, undermine, incite terror, passivity, confusion. When such measures fail, Resistance will seek to make us “act out” in the sense that psychologists use this term, i.e. to self-destruct by taking some extravagant material action—infidelity, drug or alcohol drama, quitting a job, even getting ourselves arrested and thrown in jail.
In my case, when I was driving trucks, working in the oilfields, serving as an attendant in a mental hospital, etc., what was really happening was I was running away from writing. What was really happening was my own Resistance was kicking my ass.
At the time, of course, I had no idea there even was such a thing as Resistance. I was at the mercy of my own compulsion to self-sabotage.
In the story of Jonah in the Bible, God commands Jonah to travel to Nineveh, a city of wickedness, and there preach against that evil. But Jonah is afraid. He doesn’t want to go. So he catches a ship bound in the opposite direction, to Tarshish.
We all know how that worked out.
Jonah carries such bad juju from his decision to flee from heaven’s call that this force conjures a great storm. The ship he’s on is soon at the point of foundering. In desperation, the sailors chuck Jonah overboard (which immediately calms the storm), whereupon Jonah, bobbing around in the ocean, gets swallowed by a whale. Jonah spends three days in the whale’s belly, calling out to God to forgive him and save him. Sure enough, the whale coughs Jonah up onto dry land, ready to carry on.
God’s word is our soul calling to us to its true identity. Resistance is the fear that makes us flee this call. The wilderness is our time in the belly of the whale.
In other words, the purpose of our sojourn in the wilderness is to scare the crap out of us and make us face the fear that up till then had been kicking our butt.
The Jonah who is vomited up by the whale is not the same Jonah who originally fled from his calling. He has been chastened by his ordeal. The problem, Jonah realizes, is not the assignment from heaven. It’s not the obstacles he must face if he accepts his mission.
The problem is our own fear, i.e. Resistance … our own tendency to self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-destruction. Before we can do anything—anything at all—we must become aware of this reality and formulate some kind of program or plan to face it and overcome it.
My new memoir, Govt Cheese (pub date 12/30, available for pre-order now), is about my time in the belly of the whale. The beats of my story might not match those of yours, but they will for sure parallel them metaphorically. Why? Because the Jonah Story is universal. Male or female, rich or poor, young or old, we’re all at some point going to catch that ship for Tarshish … and we’re all going to wind up you-know-where.