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Cimarron, New Mexico | BSA Philmont 2016

Not since the very early weeks of this coronavirus pandemic have I felt the reality of wilderness living more acutely. This is strange, because I feel it at a time when our family is taking ever-greater strides back into “normal” life. And that’s the rub.

Normal life for my crew means sports life. Sports life means community. Togetherness. Shared spirit through a shared common goal: supporting our kids as they (hopefully) grow into greater maturity through the challenges inherent in playing their sport.

But in-person community and togetherness flies in the face of Covid-life sensibilities. It is a deadly threat, even. And so, here we are—our family, our coaches, our community—trying to harmonize our sport life with Covid-life. It’s been like trying to dance the waltz to Metallica.

I’ve got to hand it to my people. There’s no giving up. Even in the face of some truly painful setbacks. Our family has not come out unscathed. Truly there are days in these past several weeks that have felt like one blow to the gut after the next. It’s been excruciating trying to muck my way through the loss pileup inherent in Covid-life. Far worse is having to reconcile myself to the fact that I’m fairly powerless to protect my children from its robbing, hateful ways.

How fitting that this would coincide with Lent, that wilderness season before Easter morn. This is a gift. It acts as a check on my wearied soul that would rather complain than expect to find manna lying right outside my door. Even in this wilderness, especially in this wilderness, I am invited to participate in the beauty of something greater than I can recognize.

I’m not sure exactly what this “participating” looks like. So far, it has included a fair amount of naming my sadness and complaint in prayer. But then, this is a kind of participation, is it not?

In his book, For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann speaks of humankind’s purpose as living a eucharistic life. “Man was to be the priest of a eucharist,” says Schmemann, “offering the world to God, and in this offering he was to receive the gift of life.” (24)

Schmemann points to man’s work of naming in Eden as his eucharistic call:

“Now in the Bible a name is infinitely more than a means to distinguish one thing from another. It reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God’s gift. To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.”

For the Life of the World, Alexander Schmemann

I’m not equating Covid and all its ill effects as a gift from God. Whatever I understand or lack in understanding about how Covid came to be, from hell or heaven or—more likely—something like the filtered trials of Job; I do recognize that my participation in these wilderness days is a gift. It is a gift to be able to name my distresses and disappointments before the Lord. Mysteriously, as I do this, I begin to recognize their “place…within the cosmos created by God.”

With this perspective, I walk less burdened. My eyes even clear a bit. And I see that the desert grasses happen to be in full bloom.