Baptized in the BWCA

Earlier this spring I wrote about  Andrew Rogness’ book, Crossing Boundary Waters: A Spiritual Journey in Canoe Country. You can read that post here.  I am rereading it in preparation for a canoe trip in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) later this summer with men from Resurrection.

Through out the book Rogness is wrestling with his own restless soul, seeking to restore a sense of emotional and spiritual balance in his life.  He describes a dream in which he see himself as a broken Superman who needs repair.  His self-mage has become twisted and distorted, trying to stay in control.  As he canoes alone through the wilderness, he senses a storm brewing inside himself.

In one dramatic scene, a thunderstorm rushes towards his campsite and he decides to keep his clothing and gear dry by stripping everything off and meeting the storm naked.

Now where to stand?  Near the trees isn’t a good spot, with lightning searing the sky. I walk down to the water’s edge, face west, and greet the oncoming rain with arms outstretched.

The rain pelts my skin and streams down my face.  I am surprised not to feel cold.  It is as though the water is cleansing, purifying more than the outer me, and drawing me away from the center of what is happening.  I am in this storm, not just watching it. I am in the world, not apart from it.

Across the bay, I see mist rising from the forest. Even while the rain descends, it also rises to renew itself.   I am whipped by the storm, brought to the ground of my being, and I sense this same kind of transformation rising from within.  I think of what has happened to me in three days, what has been poured out of myself to be cleansed by the wilderness and like the mist now rises to new birth (p. 92).

Rogness takes time to reflect and describe how a wilderness journey can be a spiritual experience in the Christian tradition.  He senses the power of God in storm and within himself.  His canoe trip give him the opportunity to reorient himself as a child of God.  The rainstorm is a kind of baptism in which death and new life become possible.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Have you ever experience a moment of new birth?

Has time in the wilderness helped you reorient your self-image?

Lord Jesus, create a new center within me.

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