Getting to where I am
By QuaWanna Bannarbie
Nobody likes the “wilderness.” This COVID era will likely go down in history as a period of wilderness. I bet you just shuddered at the mention of the word. We think we know or understand wilderness. We are familiar with the Bible narrative of the children of Israel wandering in the desert near Mt. Sinai for 40 years. That history may cause you to think that a wilderness is the equivalent of going nowhere. I recently discovered that wilderness destinations are purposeful places to get you to a place that everyone should wish to go.
I do declare that we are in a wilderness, but are we getting anywhere?
Destinations seem to be the holy grail of our existence. Anyone who wants to be somebody has a place to be. On the contrary, the COVID era has sent us all to our rooms where it appears we have no place to go. Such an existence gives us so much time for other things. Right?
I am reading, “Building the Bridge as You Walk on It: A Guide for Leading Change” by author Robert E. Quinn. I did not pick up this book on my own accord. It is the resource that my nonprofit, Leadership LINKS, Inc. is reading this year. We recently finished our discussion of chapters 9-10. In the latter chapter, Quinn discusses wilderness as being a place of retreat to become pure and find our integrity. He suggests that the danger of this idea of wilderness experience is that we may become unengaged or withdrawn in our efforts to keep away from the corruption of community and connecting with others.
He writes, “In many spiritual traditions, it is suggested that we find our integrity by withdrawing from the world: retreating to the nunnery or the Buddhist monastery or, like Jesus, to the wilderness” (Quinn, 2004, p. 113). It is true that Jesus retreated to the wilderness to unengage from society. Luke 5:16 tells us, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (NKJV). He needed to get alone with His Creator.
The COVID era wilderness has caused many (especially the elderly) to withdraw from society for safety. A killer disease seeking whom it may infect is a good reason to withdraw. But if we reason that we are in the wilderness for safety, we will be wanderers here for potentially a long time. Our current wilderness invites us to journey in the land of restored virtue.
We often relate morals, ethics and good values to sound integrity. Integrity is all of those things. It is also being whole. When I think of people like Congressman John Lewis and my grandfather Alfred “Perry” Harris, I think of firm and solid examples of integrity personified. By firm and solid, I mean that they remained unimpaired although they went through much in their lives. Their resolve to live a strong life was such that their work on this earth spoke to their calling and that calling is their legacy.
Life in this fallen world impairs our strength. People influence us to turn from who we really are. Ignorance and deception literally make lost souls of us. God brings us to the wilderness to bring us back to our integrity. Virtue has left us, and we will travel some distance to get it back again. The gulf between where I am and where I am going may resemble a desert. Yet, I am confident that God is leading us to His promise. He is getting me to where I am.
It’s interesting that our role in nature is to preserve the wilderness in our wildlands. But God preserves our nature identified in Him by drawing us to and through the wilderness.
QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Connect with her via firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.