I will make a covenant of peace with my people … Then they will be able to camp safely in the wildest places and sleep in the woods without fear.
Ez 34:25 NLT
Solo camping became a calling, a craving, after moving to Oklahoma. Being from Alaska I rarely set out on camping excursions, and certainly never alone. I already lived in the woods. However city life in Tulsa had me thirsting for the rhythm of water lapping on the shores.
I’d rafted the turquoise, glacial waters of the Kenai river where you might not see a soul for days but the Illinois river was packed raft to raft living out a version of an Okie Mardi Gras, beads and all. The Last Frontier tucks away its beaches in places only a float plane can touch. Yet there I was, in stark contrast, sleeping in packed campgrounds and waking to the sound of an unknown neighbor vomiting last nights campfire meal.
I knew this sort of camping was not it, and I could still hear Him calling to solitude.
Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches.
Gen 2:8-10 NLT
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.
Gen 3:8-11 NLT
God designed a lush, vibrant garden for us to live that meets every need, yet when He comes in the cool of the day desiring to spend time with us we hide. We bury ourselves in busyness and noise, in relationships and sometimes even in the very ministry He has placed us. The idea of being alone with our thoughts, naked with our traumas, sends us into hiding. We fear that if we sit in the silence of the Garden the incessant self talk will drown us, judgements will be deafening or the biting words of those who were supposed to love us may tear us to pieces. He calls. He searches. We hide.
Song of Solomon is a love story between a Shulammite woman and her king. This erotic poetry speaks of a sensuous courtship and is symbolic of the love between us and our Lover.
My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.
Song of Solomon 2:14 NLT
All of history is evidence that our loving God desires intimacy with you and me. Pursuing us He spares no expense to free us of the shame and disgrace we often attempt to suffocate with the noise of activity. Despite our minds knowing of His vast affection on many occasions this knowledge does not travel the 18 inches to our heart. We wear exhaustion and the bags under our eyes like a badge making ourselves appear to be in such high demand. It is our way of adding value to ourselves but it is a false sense of value. The truth is we are clothing our emptiness with rags while He desires to dress us for our wedding day; a bridegrooms garland and a bride’s jewels.
After gaining the courage to camp solo I took baby steps by sleeping in the back of my SUV, mostly because I was afraid of the venomous cottonmouths that lived by the lake only a few feet from my site. I am familiar with dodging moose and bear, but snakes, suffice it to say, we don’t have snakes in Alaska! Piece by piece I collected all the necessities to survive in the woods and meet God there: in the Garden, also known as Oklahoma State Parks. I assembled a kitchen tote to include a shiny new percolator that I couldn’t wait to turn black over campfires shortly after watching the sun rise. Despite not being a morning person He would wake me to show off. As if to say, “Look what I painted for you today, Love!”
So there I was, a solo woman camper encountering varied reactions as I smoothed out my ground tarp, erecting a tent and building a fire to light up the dark nights and cook gourmet meals. (Truly I have discovered almost anything can be cooked on a stick.) Some watched suspiciously, others approached wondering if I kept a gun for protection and others God used to provide. At times I feel like Elijah after God called him into the wilderness.
The ravens did take care of him while he was there, just as the Lord said, bringing him a meal of bread and meat at sunrise and another meal of bread and meat at sunset. He satisfied his thirst by drinking from the stream.
1 Kings 17:6 Voice Bible
My provision wasn’t carried to me by ravens but by retired couples sharing their catfish bounty or bringing me a hot cup of coffee as soon as they saw my slow, sleepy body emerge from the night’s shelter.
God has prepared a garden to meet with us and the provision to do so. He is calling us away to times of solitude where there will be a flowing out of ourself to create an inward spaciousness that the Holy Spirit may flow in. This garden is a place where we are less likely to mistake our own perceptions, opinions, and agenda for reality and instead see through the eyes of Jesus. With practice we learn to burn away the manifestations of the ego so that we may walk through this life unbound, in humility and with peace. Ultimately, we will come to know our Creator in all the ways he wants to be known. As Meister Eckert said, “Sometimes we must let go of God, for God’s sake.”
During our times of solitude and silence we will encounter and practice the spiritual disciplines of mindful awareness, Biblical meditation and Christian detachment. In order to better understand how to approach these disciplines we will next discuss the anatomy of a believer and when enlightenment occurs for the believer.