“Hoods in the woods”.
When I read this phrase in Todd Wynward’s book, “Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God”, I became immediately uncomfortable. In light of the racial violence that has been inundating the news lately, I felt a visceral reaction to the euphemistic labelling of “at-risk” young men as “hoods”: an objectification and a reduction of their identity to a piece of clothing.
Although still simmering from the thought of this phrase, Todd’s next statement stopped me in my tracks. “After thirty years of working as a wilderness guide, I’ve realized something: my friends, we’re all at-risk individuals in need of character change” (pp. 38).
When I read academic texts, I tend to do so dissociatively. It is easy to wrestle with new ideas in an abstract sense. I collect words like affluenza and watershed discipleship for my intellectual repertoire, hoping that I will be able to demonstrate my creation care fluency in conversation. Completely distracted by this approach, I had failed to see the direct application that this statement could have for my life. Todd isn’t contending that only “hoods” need a strengthening wilderness experience… he’s saying that we all do.
Todd “rewilded” the concept completely; in fact, the theme of rewilding permeates every page of this prophetic book. Hackneyed concepts are given new life. Words that feel stale are revamped to be relevant to the people alive today.
Oftentimes, we “Millennials” are pegged as apathetic, but Todd quotes Kurt Hahn when he asserts that re-creating healthy young adults leads to a re-creation of society as a whole. Rather than perpetuating disenfranchising language, Todd offered empowering challenges. The book has the capacity to inspire us to break free from our “tame” (read: passive) lifestyles to follow an age-old God in fresh, climate-conscious ways.
As affluent Americans, we live in a constant state of stress. We carry our smartphones in our pockets, accessible at a moment’s notice. The device that allows constant contact with the world also shackles us to our myriad responsibilities: work emails, twitter tags, deadlines, and a constantly updating news feed. “We remain shackled to the comforts of empire,” Todd confesses.
“Yet,” he continues, “an encounter with God in uncolonized wilderness lies waiting at the edge of our culture” (pp. 43). God is accessible, we just have to make ourselves vulnerable: to strip ourselves of modern comforts and find our strength through being tested.
In my life, I have found a little piece of wilderness. As a runner, I spend many miles alone in nature each week. When I run, the words that reverberate through my head melt away. I exist, for minutes here and there, without my conscious mind: aware only of my feet pounding to the holy rhythm of silence. In these moments, I feel overwhelming wholeness. My legs ache and my lung burn; I am exhausted, but I am free. Here lies my testing ground, however small.
At the end of a run, I lie on the ground. My heart beats against the dirt. In my delusional, post-run haze, the Earth feels alive. This is how I connect to the world; this is how I connect to God.
What I hope for myself, as I take steps toward mature adulthood, is that I never fall prey to the pressures of this world to secure a safe future at the expense of experiencing the vastness of God’s kingdom. “We must step out of business as usual, step into the wild, and become a different kind of human” (pp. 43).
As I continue to seek the courage to follow an untamed God into the wilderness, I pray that you, too, find your own untamed path.
Hannah Chappell-Dick is a senior at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is a Biology major who runs cross country and track for the Royals. Hannah coaches a kids’ track club, is active with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and serves on EMU’s Presidential Search Committee. She attends Shalom Mennonite Church.