i came across that book early in my journey out of porn addiction and it unsettled me in all the right ways. One of the things it did for me was provide a framework for thinking about my life in larger terms than i ever had before. Another thing it provided was a broader understanding of my addiction and the real issues behind it.
At the time, i was in danger of thinking that my addictive patterns with porn and lust had been about sex.
Eldredge’s invitation in Wilderness and his exploration of the masculine soul brought clarity for me: my path to freedom and new life would take me through places where there was no map; places that were completely untamed; and through places where God expected me to engage my surroundings with a fierce strength that He had given me, but had lain dormant most — if not all — of my life.
And by Wilderness i am not speaking solely of the outdoors. There are Wild places within relationships that must be explored and where fierce strength is needed. Certainly, the Wild places where my addiction flourished were all internal places of my soul. But that did not make them any less a Wilderness than the deepest jungle or the peak of Mt. Everest.
As a result, this many years later i have a love for Wilderness. i am fascinated by its many expressions and its unapologetic nature. Wilderness has a way of connecting with my deep soul in ways that are both exhilarating and humbling. The grand, unyielding nature of, say, The Rockies, instills a healthy fear in me along the lines of awe and reverence. Wilderness can inspire me, but it also tends to call something out of me.
As Bear Grylls says: “The Wild is always revealing.”
i see Wilderness as a great gift and i consider my time spent in it a necessity. Because even though not all Wilderness is outdoors, time spent out there always corresponds with something good happening inside me. And i need that in order to walk the path laid out before me.
The author’s approach is to discuss Wilderness as a gift and he explores how it can become an idol, which is not exactly how i am discussing it. i am considering it more as a metaphor for the path we must walk out of addictive patterns.
Consider this quote:
Wilderness is a great good—one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given—but in order to receive the restoration wilderness offers, we need to understand what wilderness is saying. At first, it seems enough to sense the unnamed redemptive capacity of the wild, but that does not last very long. Like a beautiful woman, it all depends on what you are going there for, what story you believe is unfolding as you engage.
Things derive their meaning in terms of the story within which they emerge, or the story we believe we are living in as we take hold of those things. Wildness, then, is not a thing in itself; its gifts are conditional. It depends upon a condition of clarity. There’s a quote we’ve mentioned before that’s very useful here, by Dostoevsky: “Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the Devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” The wildernesses we love are not uncontested spaces. They are sites of turmoil, the sabotage of the heart unfolding right against the resurrection. There are mountain ranges and rivers full of a ferocious strength that might in one turn bring life to a whole valley and in the next carry tree and soil and self over rocky cataracts.
Wilderness mirrors something deep in the masculine soul: it is a site of turmoil where the sabotage of the heart unfolds against the resurrection. The porn addict knows this, and that turmoil seems to echo something written in 1 Peter 2:11:
Dear friends, i urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war on your soul.
Those of us who have lived with compulsive sexual behavior know the war waged on our souls. We also know that at times we have been willing accomplices. That in itself is a wild frontier begging for exploration and discovery.
What story do we believe is unfolding for us as we pursue the healing of our hearts from addictive sexual behaviors? That’s a crucial question, and it determines how we interact with Wilderness, our hearts and God Himself.
If the story we believe is unfolding is one in which we are just royal screw ups; or we are on our own to make life work somehow; or all desire is evil — well then — that sets the course for a tragic plot line.
But if we believe that the Wilderness inside our hearts as men mirrors a Wild aspect of the Warrior Artist God who has made us in His image, then that’s something altogether different. And if, instead of resenting the Wilderness within us, we join God in the journey through that Wilderness with Him as our guide, then what we will discover is a grand, purposeful adventure in which He truly makes all things — most significantly us — new.