Wilderness—the vestibule to freedom

When our lives seem to be a wasteland, we may be readiest to receive the living waters that make a desert bloom.

Complete freedom from bondage for the Israelites did not come when they left Egypt, the scene of their captivity. They gained their real freedom from slavery after they had gone through the wilderness—through an experience where they doubted everything they had believed, including God's perpetual promise to care for them. Geographically they were in a desert area between Egypt and the land of Canaan. Mentally, they were between their fear of an uncertain future and a greater realization of God's presence and power.

In Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy begins her definition of the Scriptural term wilderness with these words: "Loneliness; doubt; darkness." Science and Health, p. 597. The Israelites must have believed that their leader, Moses, had brought them into just such a situation. The narrator in Exodus puts their complaining attitude in plain language: "The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness." Ex. 16:2. They doubted that God could help them, and they would have preferred to return to slavery in Egypt, where their physical needs had been met.

It was at this point in their struggle for freedom that God gave them manna. And each step of the way as they went back and forth from doubting to praising God, new lessons had to be learned. But as the old ways and reliances were put off, they were ready to enter the Promised Land. Mrs. Eddy helps us understand the pivotal nature of this stage of progress in the second part of her definition of wilderness: "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence."

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Peace horizon
November 17, 1986

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