“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God…'” (Isaiah 40: 1)
For some reason, Jesus is really intent on going into forests and deserts. As I am looking at this passage, one I have heard numerous times, I am struck by His desire to go to the wild places. A bit comically, I begin to imagine Jesus delving into the thick underbrush of a forest or having a road built into a stretching expanse of sand.
What is that wilderness He wants to dive into?
Ah. My heart.
It is a wild place, overgrown with weeds and bad habits. Other places are deserts, barren and uninhabited. Jesus wants to enter into those places.
I find myself attempting to redirect Him. “Look, Jesus, a lovely little valley! Come admire this place that has it all together, a place that isn’t messy….Oh, a lively garden, teeming with life. Isn’t this nice, Jesus?” He looks at these places, smiles at me, and then heads back into the desert.
But, Jesus, there is nothing to see there.
Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say, “Nothing there that I want You to see.”
Of course, I am not informing Him of something new. He appreciates and acknowledges the areas that are well-tended; the good habits that are deeply rooted He surveys. But He did not come to see the parts that are blossoming. Like a good gardener, He came to see what can be done about the overgrown places or the areas that have no life. He comes to prune and to cultivate, to cut back and to plant anew.
As much as I would like for it to be so, there isn’t a magical transformation of my heart. He sees the barren places. “There is a lot of work to do here.” I want to hang my head, to point out that He rarely spends much time in the neatly planted rows, but is always going into the wasteland. I nearly find myself voicing that He is never satisfied.
“Are you?” He asks me pointedly, as He looks at thistles and crabgrass. “Are you satisfied with the state of your heart?”
He isn’t listening to the excuses that long to flow from my lips. He knows them well. Instead, He sifts some of the sand through His hands. He is internally plotting for springs that will pour forth from the desert, elaborate garden plans that will replace the barrenness of the desert.
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert….for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, 20b-21)
The Lord refuses to be satisfied because He knows the possibilities. Where we see something that is without hope, He sees something beautiful when viewed through the lens of His grace and goodness. We hold onto the past, fearful of the future, and He sees the blessings that are in store for us. From His Heavenly perspective, all is working toward the good. We see the struggle and the endless chipping away of the things not of God; He sees the sculpture emerging from the marble.
While our tendency is to ignore the barren areas, He is drawn to them, as if compelled to bring abundant life to the furthest reaches of our souls. He promised a full, abundant life. We cannot live that if we are content with the wilderness remaining untended. He sees a desert and He desires a spring. Do not ask Him how a spring can come to be in the desert. Simply accept that He will level mountains and elevate valleys so that it will be so.
He is doing something new. He is sating a thirst we refuse to admit we have. For Him, there is no “good enough” or “that will do.” He will bushwack through the wildest places so as to claim all parts of all hearts for His own. He is relentless.
Prepare! The Lord is entering into the deepest recesses, the caverns we imagine we have forgotten about. He comes to bring life into the void. Like a new Genesis, He takes the formless wasteland and He transforms it into His dwelling place.
Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessings on your offspring.” (Isaiah 44: 3)