For the last fifteen years I have worked in at least some capacity as an outdoor adventure guide and facilitator. I have enjoyed the privilege God has afforded me to take many new friends into the wilds of creation and witnessed how He used those occasions to provide rest, revelation, and perspective to so many in that environment. As one might imagine, I’ve pondered many times why these “adventures” seem to be such an affective medium for God to break through in peoples’ hearts.
In Mark 8:22-26, it says;
“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people, they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village’.”
Jesus encounters a blind man and the scripture records that Jesus “took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village”. I’ve always found it compelling that Jesus saw it necessary to take him away. Couldn’t he have healed him on the spot? Or was Jesus, perhaps, aware that the man’s inability to see was tied to the village? It’s obvious from the man’s answers to Jesus’ questions that he had once been able to see; “I see people, they look like trees walking around” (he had apparently seen people and trees before!). So Jesus spits in the man’s eyes, restores his vision, and sends him home, but with an interesting command; “don’t go into the village.”
I believe with passion that the reason I have witnessed, first hand, so many life changing encounters between people and their God in wilderness settings has much to do with His awareness of those occasions when we need to be removed, even momentarily, from our circumstances for the sake of having our spiritual eyes reopened. In the verses above, Jesus displays not only His understanding of the root of the man’s problem being somehow related to his time in the village, but also a willingness to physically go with the man to a place where he is positioned to receive what Jesus is offering, namely restored vision.
If you, like many, feel it impossible to get outside of your village sometimes, take heart. On another occasion Jesus enters into the current circumstance of another person for the sake of their healing. “While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live. Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all of the region” (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26). In the physical, this little girl was unable to be led anywhere and so Jesus chooses to enter in to her current reality. Jesus, in an incredible act of grace, sends everyone present out of the room and creates an environment free of outside influence and then restores her life.
On first read, it seems as though these two scriptural accounts contrast one another in regards to Jesus’ use of the environment or circumstance to perform His ministry in people’s lives. On closer inspection, though, there is a much deeper truth on display that is evident in both events. Not only is God able to work in our lives regardless of the externals, but indeed He manipulates them in effort to carve out a place reserved for just us and Him. What I see demonstrated in these two sections of scripture is a Savior willing and able to create such a place for addressing our deepest, darkest afflictions whether by drawing us out of the events that precluded them or by walking straight into them and commanding that a place just for us be made. Either way, how blessed are we to serve a God whose motivation is always to be in a place that’s just for us and Him!
Bobby is involved in youth and adult ministries at Crossroads Church in Concord, NC. He founded Capstone outdoor adventure ministries to help people connect to God. He and his wife are expecting their first child in May.