On Watching for Wild Life

May 25, 2015 — Leave A Comment


“The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.” ~ Howard Macey

On the highway up to my mountain home, there’s one of those electronic traffic alert signs you often see in construction areas or along the arteries through larger cities. The sign alerts drivers to any dangers that may be present ahead, like when there’s an accident on the road, or it’s been snowing and the roads are icy, or on the rare occasion when rocks have fallen on the roadway from the mountains above.

But on most days when there’s no specific danger to report, the sign simply reads: “Watch for Wildlife.” Now of course I know they mean by this that we ought to watch for wild animals and to take care not to harm or disturb them as we go our way, which is a very good practice for us all to give more thought to, I think, as it seems so many now view the presence of other forms of life in the world as completely incidental to their lives.

But lately the phrase has struck me on a different level, as if it is admonishing me to be on watch for the wild, untamed life that lives in the free forests and the high countries of my own soul.


Do you know what I mean? That wild place in you. That free spirit. That raucous beautiful song. It would burst out of your chest in a roar and a dance like nothing the world has ever seen if you let it.

What is it to be “on watch” for that quality of life within you? And when you see it, to welcome it the same way you welcome any wild thing ~ with wonder and delight, and careful attentiveness?

Isn’t it strange how we work so hard to make our lives predictable and pedestrian, and then resent that we are no longer free? But it’s because we love control. The wild life within us cannot be controlled, and that is why we lock it away behind stale structures and predictable routines.

We do the same thing with God.

“Humans love to control things, and one of the things they’ve always longed to do is to control the presence of God, and to stake it down and to tame it in ways that they can actually manage it. But the truth is there is nothing as wild in the universe as the presence of God.” ~ John O’Donohue, The Divine Imagination

In that classic line from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mrs. Beaver declares of Aslan, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

“Most of the earth is not safe,” adds John Eldredge in Wild at Heart, “but it’s good.” And I would add that there are places in you that are just like that too. Parts of your soul are alive with wildness, untamed and untamable. They are not safe. But they are good.

What is your wild life? Do you know it? Where does it live? Where would it carry you if you let go of the leash?

I invite you to think on that this week. And when you see your wildness or the wildness of God, don’t turn away.

Michael Warden

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