Near the end of C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe one of the characters, Mr. Beaver, describes Aslan, the lion who many see as a Christ figure. "He doesn't like being tied down . . . . He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion." I couldn't help but think of that line as I began reading Todd Wynward's challenging book Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God. Like the characters in Narnia, it is so tempting for us to try and control God with our creeds and understandings, but God is greater than that. Indeed, as a seminary professor once reminded me, if you could control God, than God wouldn't be God--you would be.
Wynward's book addresses a wide array of issues confronting the church in this day and age. Some of them, like trying to tame God, aren't at all new. But others, like our increasing distance from the natural world, are unique to our era. Indeed, environmental concerns are laced throughout this book filled with wisdom.
Wynward begins by positing that there is a third way to approach life as a Christian. Not the way of absolute renunciation (of the world and the things of the world), not "unexamined affluence"(20) but rather the Way of Jesus. "God," he writes, "has always desired for us to be conspirators in God's dream, collaborators in redemption. What is this God project? heaven on earth. From the beginning, God has dreamed of an ideal society, something Jesus called 'the kingdom of God': human community embodying covenanted right relationship with each other and all creation." (22-23)
Throughout the book, Wynward offers powerful examples of folks who are trying to do just that. And, adding integrity to his words, he discusses some of his own efforts, and those of his family, to live by this Third Way as they live in an intentional community built largely around the task of providing wilderness based education in New Mexico.
Well read, Wynward often refers to a wide range of authors including Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Joanna Macy and G. K. Chesterton. At one point he even quotes the poet Walt Whitman: "'Now I see the secret of making the best person,'" Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, "'it is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.'" (80) A poetic summation of much of Wynward's approach to life itself!
The heart of the book, appropriately, is found in the middle section, called "Seven Paths to Wild Your Way." Here Wynward offers up seven chapters devoted to presenting and illustrating seven basic principles. Among them are "Steer by Inner Authority," Rely upon Radical grace," Embody Enoughness," and "Trust in the Spirit."
Wynward freely admits to his own limitations. Speaking about his work in Taos, he writes: "We're inconsistent and distracted with other concerns, but we often find ourselves growing food together, raising goats together, educating our children together, wandering the mountains together, resisting empire together." (265) But for all his humility, Wynward really does have some important things to say about how we might better live as those who seek to follow Jesus, as those who realize our God is a wild and untamed God.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.