Courtesy Photo
Laura Rorem stands during a ferry retreat circa 2004.

Courtesy Photo Laura Rorem stands during a ferry retreat circa 2004.

Living & GrowingThe gift of the wilderness

Lent begins in the wilderness — Jesus’ and our own.

  • By Laura Rorem
  • Thursday, March 17, 2022 4:36pm
  • Neighbors

I might not be here when you get back!” Tanya announced when we told her we were going to Hawaii without her. Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and FASD, we could not take her. We needed respite and left her with competent caregivers with this instruction: “Don’t call us unless it is life or death!”

The last day the call came: “Tanya OD’d. They are working on her now.” An impulsive act to make us come home, as soon as she OD’d, she called for help!

Six weeks later, I went to visit my dad, alone. Upon telling Tanya I was leaving, she announced, “I might not be here when you get back!” I firmly replied, “You need to know, if you try to commit suicide while I am gone, I am not coming back. And if you succeed, I still will not come back, and I will tell them to put your body on ICE!” Stunned, she replied, “Really?! I won’t do it mommy!”

At the same time, our son with FASD was in crisis. Larry was unhappy about being left alone with the kids. However, we planned to meet in Anchorage upon my return for a retreat. The moment we reunited, we realized how much we needed to be alone, together, away from the chaos of caregiving. We pledged to never talk about the kids while on retreat and focus only on our love and relationship. We needed to retreat into the wilderness for our own physical, emotional and spiritual health, to face our thoughts and emotions with God’s loving presence. We returned home transformed and strengthened with renewed perspective, energy and balance. From then on, we intentionally went into the wilderness several times a year, leaving the world behind, placing ourselves at God’s disposal.

Fifteen months ago, I entered into an unwanted wilderness of grief and sorrow when Larry died. It is a wild journey within me: lonely, uncomfortable, inescapable and further complicated by my overwhelming responsibilities of caring for loved ones with FASD—without Larry. Yet, twice daily I intentionally leave the world behind and follow the spiritual and meaningful path the gift of grief and sorrow has given me, to discover my identity without Larry, and reflect upon and discern my future. God is cradling me with his loving presence and compassion, giving me hope.

We all end up in a wilderness at some point in our lives; sometimes willingly to face difficult truths about ourselves: but often without choice through illness, death, divorce, pandemic, etc.

Lent begins in the wilderness — Jesus’ and our own. Jesus’ temptation gave him the opportunity to inquire deeper into his own identity and reflect upon and clarify his calling.

Lent gives us our opportunity to experience the wilderness by turning toward God and look at ourselves deeply and honestly. It is a time to go inward and open our hearts and minds as we search ourselves within, both good and bad, and acknowledge where our faith has been lacking. God goes with us, guiding and nurturing us through our inner world.

When you find yourself in the wilderness times of your life, be assured that God meets you there, in your solitude. Be open when you encounter God in your wilderness and let your life be transformed into a new understanding of life and yourself.

• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. Her new purpose is to honor Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable. Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

On Clergy/Spouse Retreat, Hatcher Pass Road in 2003. (Courtesy Photo)
Courtesy Photo
This photo was taken on a clergy/spouse retreat on M/V Christian by Taku Glacier in 2006.

Courtesy Photo This photo was taken on a clergy/spouse retreat on M/V Christian by Taku Glacier in 2006.

More in Neighbors

A change in season is marked by tree leaves turning color at Evergreen Cemetery in late September of 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Gimme a Smile: P.S. Autumn is here.

Ready or not, here it comes. The days are getting shorter, new… Continue reading

A double rainbow appears in Juneau last Friday. (Photo by Ally Karpel)
Living and Growing: Embracing Tohu V’vohu — Creation Amidst Chaos

Over the course of the past year, during which I have served… Continue reading

Birch and aspen glow orange in September in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of Fairbanks. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: The varying colors of fall equinox

We are at fall equinox, a day of great equality: All the… Continue reading

A male pink salmon attacks another male with a full-body bite, driving the victim to the bottom of the stream.(Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Eagle Beach strawberries and salmon

A walk at Eagle Beach Rec Area often yields something to think… Continue reading

Adam Bauer of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau.
Living and Growing: Rúhíyyih Khánum, Hand of the Cause of God

Living in Juneau I would like to take a moment to acknowledge… Continue reading

A calm porcupine eating lunch and not displaying its quills. (Photo by Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: Prickly critters here and afar

Prickles, thorns, and spines of some sort are a common type of… Continue reading

The Rev. Karen Perkins.
Living and Growing: Coping with anger, shock and despair after a loss

The last several Living and Growing columns have included reflections about death,… Continue reading

A female humpback whale Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve biologists know as #219 breaches in the waters near the park. When a whale breaches, it often leaves behind flakes of skin on the surface of the ocean. Scientists can collect sloughed skin and send it to a laboratory to learn about the genetics or diet of the whale. (National Park Service photo by Christine Gabriele, taken under the authority of scientific research permit #21059 issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service)
Alaska Science Forum: The welcome return of an old friend to Icy Strait

There was a time when Christine Gabriele wondered if she’d ever see… Continue reading

Sandhill cranes fly over the Mendenhall wetlands. (Photo by Gina Vose)
On the Trails: An uncommon encounter with Sandhill cranes

One sunny day near the end of August, a friend and I… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Living and Growing: Giving space for grief is healthy and grounded

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter… Continue reading

A rainbow spans North Douglas on Aug. 16. (Photo by Kelsey Riederer)
Wild Shots

To showcase our readers’ work to the widest possible audience, Wild Shots… Continue reading

The little blue stars of felwort flowers appear late in the season. (Photo by David Bergstrom)
On the trails: Out and about, here and there

On a foggy morning toward the middle of August, a friend and… Continue reading