‘God found them in a wilderness,
in fearful, desolate wastes.
God surrounded them;
Lifted them up,
And they were kept as the apple of God’s eye.’
Our life with God is totally relevant and totally real to our lives despite the best attempts of the church to make it seem otherwise.
One of the great messages from the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of Exodus … a journeying out into the unknown. As well as an account of an early group of people this is of course also a metaphor about our journey through life, and potentially also about each day or even moment. Human life is very largely a wilderness, a dry land where there’s not much water although there are plenty of things such as success or riches or self-importance that act as the artificial water or plastic flowers with which we pretend that we live in an authentic way … all simulated appearances of what matters and what is real.
The wilderness can be an external one full of actual fear, loss and emptiness or an internal one dominated by the same terrors. Most people have times when they know such experiences, even if we try to pretend otherwise and other times when they have reached, for the moment, a promised land of sorts. The great thing is that many others have been there and got through the wilderness times and left us their experiences to guide and support as we come along behind. The wilderness can be an individual experience or a collective one.
I’m still ploughing through the first volume of Carl Jung’s correspondence (all 576 pages) and there are some wonderful sections that seem to really open out Jung’s understanding and experiences of the relationship between religion and psychology. He also comments on the political situation during and after the Second World War.
Some of his insights seem powerfully pertinent to our current state globally For example, he suggests that given the creation of nuclear weapons (this is written in 1945) the suicide of human civilisation has moved closer and ‘chain reactions will be discovered in the future which will endanger the planet.’ Jung sees the only hope lies in what he calls ‘the great reversal’. He writes, ‘I can imagine this as nothing other than a religious, world-embracing movement which alone can intercept the diabolical impulse for destruction.’ He continues in this same letter (which was to a Pastor Wegmann with whom he discusses much of interest) that the church would have her reason for existence, her justification, if through some global spiritual force humankind and now I would add all creatures could be saved. He thought the situation urgent then as indeed it surely is now.
Jung also quotes the presence of God in life as an infinite sphere, ‘whose centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.’ We are surrounded and immersed, whether we believe it or not and whether in the times of wilderness or the promised land.