Book Review: Rewilding the Way
I spent the past month with Todd Wynward’s book, Rewilding the Way (Herald Press, 2015). It has not been a comfortable read for me, even though it is well-written, thought-provoking, and value-challenging. Wynward’s musings on faith and life, individualism and community, and the life Jesus invites us to follow have led me to some prickly soul-searching. The back cover asks, “When did we become so tame?” When, indeed!
Like a modern-day John the Baptist, Wynward encourages us if not to repent of our current life-style, then at least to reconsider it – if not to prepare the way, then to at least assess the way we are preparing. Much less rough-around-the-edges than John, Wynward is part theologian, part environmentalist, and part prophet as he gently encourages us to think more deeply about the “good life” – what it is, what it means, and what it costs individually and collectively. Too often we live as though we are an independent, rather than an interconnected part of God’s creation.
Wynward describes the wilderness as encounters and environments that we cannot control, predict, or always gain assurance of our personal survival. For generations we have worked to shelter ourselves from said wilderness. We seek protection from the elements in our houses and cars. We attempt to insure our property with insurance and our future with retirement accounts. We maintain our social status and ego-needs with a never-sufficient parade of stuff that clutters our lives and weighs us down with debt – never mind the obscene cost of maintaining our extravagant, wasteful lifestyle. Yet, this is what we have come to define as the “good life.”
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encourages us to love, share, and “not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34a). How have we managed to stray so far from that simple call to the wilderness of Jesus? Wynward clearly demonstrates that we cannot possibly experience God’s grace when we shelter ourselves so completely from God’s creation.
Through the use of personal examples and descriptions of others working toward a wilder way of life and faith, Wynward encourages the reader to imagine a simpler, less controlled life-style that makes room for God’s grace and provision, where we grow where we’re planted, and where we live in symbiotic harmony with the beings around us. It is through wilderness experiences that we recognize God as a living, interactive presence, as well as developing a sense of self-sufficiency in true partnership with God.
No, this book has not been an easy read for me. I love my comfortable life, and I cling tightly to it. But I hear Wynward’s encouragement, and buried somewhere beneath the stuff of my life, a still, small voice whispers, “Yes. Please. Now.” As he concludes the book, Wynward writes, “Whatever path you choose to rewild the way, I believe that it must be personal and political, social and spiritual, encouraging initiatives that are both individual and communal” (page 269). Perhaps the “good life” is not the secure, sheltered life we have been taught. Perhaps that very life is what keeps us from experiencing God as a living, loving presence in our midst, instead of the judgmental, aloof, non-being we pay homage to on Sunday mornings. Rewilding the Way is an invitation – an invitation to take a few baby steps away from a few of our comforts and see where it leads. Although the book convicts me of my love of comfort, it invites me to something deeper, something less predictable, something wilder. The book is a good read, and I recommend it to others who are seeking more from their lives than the “good life.”
Greg Hildenbrand, http://www.ContemplatingGrace.com