Rejoicing in the wasteland

(A day late and probably more than a dollar short -- my reflection on the pray-as-you-go podcast for 12/11/2006, based on Isaiah 35.)

"The wastelands will rejoice and bloom..."

Driving through the bleak pre-winter in Pennsylvania, trees' naked arms twisting toward heaven, leaves and plants shriveled and brown, looking quite barren in the harsh, low-angle sun, Isaiah's account of God's promise to let waters flow and beautiful flowers bloom in the desert brings a smile. I know the landscape will get more sterile, darker, before it blooms with life. I think of the friends whose lives and spirits are parched, the regions of the world whose arms reach to the sky pleading for release, of people I know waiting with a loved one for death.

"The wastelands will rejoice and bloom..."

I'm amazed that Isaiah doesn't phrase this the way I would say it: In my wasteland I want to bloom, and then rejoice. I want fruit to come, live-giving waters to flow into the desolation, before I will rejoice. So that I can rejoice. But Isaiah says it's the other way around. The desert will stop despairing of being a desert and rejoice in the midst of its desert-ness. And in so doing it will bloom. Because without the One who created it and who causes it to rejoice, no fruit can come.

It's so human to want fruit to confirm God's promise rather than to just trust it; to want the blessings before the thanksgiving. But God's way is so much better... By making our hearts not to fear, we live courage. By losing our lives we find them. By looking past the desert to the oasis God will bring and rejoicing, we help loose the cleansing stream and bountiful crop that is God's kingdom.

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