In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’” -Luke 3:1-6
When you were a kid, did you ever try watching a garden grow? Did you planted to seeds with great care, covered them with soil, watered them tenderly, and then jumped into bed? Trying to sleep was impossible because you were so sure that in the morning a crop full of carrots or a creeping vine full of blossoms would be waiting for you.
And oh the disappointment when you raced outdoors as soon as the sun came up only to find…
Plain old dirt, just the same as you left it the day before.
It's a peculiar life lesson all children go through: we attend to our life's daily chores, as our parents teach us, and take great pride in our results. But rarely are we taught how to take delight in our waiting while we perform our chores. For when our chores seem to bare only weeds, we become easily frustrated. We can't see the dying of the seeds, the sprouting of infant plants, the breaking through of the soil, or the green before the colour.
It is does our hearts and spirits good to continue watering, weeding, tending, and digging. We can't see what's quite going on; we only know that something is happening. We saw it for ourselves. Heck, we planted the seeds ourselves! We have faith that our actions will help bear the fruit we need.
You're right: it's not the perfect analogy. But so often I feel like a child: wide-eyed, preparing, expecting, but then struggling with disappointment because my timing isn't the timing of the garden. I believe God came to Mary… that John prepared the way… isn't that enough? Why isn't my life now radically altered?
I read, wait, pray, meditate, write, and wait some more. What else is there to do?
"As we wait, we rely in God's Spirit to keep us turning ever so slightly each day toward God, shifting our crooked ways straighter, as we align ourselves with God's vision for kingdom living. Yes, this is hard work; but we cannot bypass the message of Isaiah 40. God does not expect us to set our own ways straight by our own efforts or good intentions" (Okoro, p. 63).
This isn't a debate between works over grace. This is God's invitation to work alongside Her in tending the world, ourselves, and in worship. This is God's beckoning for us to continue our ordinary, boring lives with the understanding that this waiting will bear fruit.
Ahhh, but doubt.
It's still here!
How long did Isaiah pine for the coming of Messiah? How many days was Mary afraid to return to her home and hearth as her body began to change? How often did John doubt that his cousin was ever going to show up? Once again we get snapshots of the lives of these legendary people, and too often forget their humanity.
Still, Isaiah kept prophesying; Mary kept expecting; and John continued preparing. The hard work of daily routine, with the promise of what was to come, was lived out in partnership with the Divine. It brought purpose, even in fear; it brought hope, even in doubt; and it brought love, even in the dryness of the mundane.
Where does this leave you and me, Henri? Some days I look at my life and sense that it could not possibly usher in any kind of new heaven or earth. I don't star in movies; I don't write great books; I don't lead grand movements; I don't lead strong political parties. I'm just… me. And I can be quite the introverted, shy, melancholic/phlegmatic, INFJ, boring woman. I get up, I go to work, I come home, I watch TV, I got to bed, and repeat.
Where's the watering and seeding here?
Perhaps I've missed something?
Until tomorrow, Henri,