“Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Great movements of water forked out over the desert just in time for the tired and thirsty animals arriving for their yearly reprieve from draught and dust. Watching the Kalahari desert flood and life begin to flourish on BBC’s Planet Earth is truly breathtaking. As with so many desert stories, it began with animals trying to find their way back to their life source and ends with them joyfully paddling through flooded land green with vitality. It was a place the veteran’s knew would be there in just the right season. They could survive the desert journey because of the promise of what was on the other side.
Jesus could survive temptation and wilderness because he knew what was on the other side. On the other side of the wilderness he would begin to heal the sick, bring forgiveness into people’s lives, give dignity to those that society deemed undignified. He knew that he would be betrayed and killed, taking everything that we do that doesn’t look like God’s home and died with it so that we wouldn’t have to. He knew that death wouldn’t keep him and he would live. At end of the wilderness, the devil left him alone …
“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” ~ Luke 4:13
I crave those things – streets where people feel like the burdens of their lives are lifted right off them, where unworthiness falls away like a snake shedding skin and a life lived from love is revealed underneath. I want to do what Jesus did … heal the sick, bring forgiveness into people’s lives, give dignity to those that society deems undignified. I want to live in God’s home where love is unquestioned. This life is on the other side of temptation. More than anything else, the temptation to not believe that God loves us, that his truth makes us into more loving people and that he knows the way to heal the streets of our cities. If this is your first time taking this journey, make sure you follow someone who is a witness to these things.
When the devil finishes all his tempting, he leaves until an opportune time. Don’t give up in the wilderness and temptation. There will be relief.
This week we will be looking at resting in God’s presence. In the meantime, ask God to give you strength to trust his truth today.
Getting off the bus this morning I was greeted by fierce wind and pelting rain. Huddling under the hood of my down jacket I tried to find some measure of warmth while rushing down the hill and across the river in the city. Soon my earlier effort of drying my hair before leaving the house was completely undone and it whipped in drenched cords across my face. I am sure the bogs were delighted with a new thick layer of moisture soaking into their spongy layers but I was not. Ireland can really be a wet land. In the city all the moisture just follows gravity down the streets and into the drains or canals but outside of it, the wetlands flourish.
When I was growing up the wetlands never seemed like exotic ecosystems. Who would want to visit to a marsh, a bog or a swamp when there were oceans, forests and mountains to explore? This was probably the reason a friend and I chose them as one of our high school biology projects one year – they were the unexpected place, the useless ground, the visually abhorrent in our part of the world. As I learned about how wetlands purify our water, ward off flooding and provide habitat for so much life, my opinion began to change. I began to explore areas saturated in water as if they were the hosts of some of the most intricate and delicate forms of life, vital to our world.
Over Christmas while visiting my family in Canada, I was able to travel through parts of Oregon and Washington. On our way home we stopped at the Mount St. Helen’s Visitor Centre. The top is blown off the volcanic mountain from its eruption in 1980. My parents remember the moment their tent walls sucked in and an the explosion filled the air from where they were staying near Vancouver, 400km away. This winter it sat as a silent white novelty to the landscape, framed by the trees and the glassy ice surfaces of the wetlands. My attention was drawn to the plants softly floating beneath the layers of intricately designed ice. This was the area where people thrived before modern conveniences allowed us to choose a home with the best view. Life came from these waters. Safety came from these waters. Sustainability came from these waters. The mountain peak wasn’t the place to go if you wanted to thrive.
I don’t know about you, but I find it really easy to see the very few people who fit on top of the mountain peek of success and hear the message we’ve convinced ourselves of: this could be you if only you … (worked hard enough, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, prayed to all gods at once, prayed to no god at all). But then I look around me at the real heroes I admire. They move about their days with a passionate focus of giving someone a lift who doesn’t have a car, making lunch for people who others don’t think are important, cultivating the plot of land that belongs to them and making preserves from the fruit of their labour. They live in the wetlands, the places teaming with life, seemingly a little less adventurous and yet sustainable for far more people than the mountain top.
For as much as we all long for the beach, the forest and the mountain top, if only for just a holiday, perhaps it is time to intentionally make our home in the wetlands.
Love – the illusive action that is often difficult to give and even more difficult to accept. It sifts through our fingers like fine sand, always leaving a few grains as remnants. One handful is never enough as it disappears so quickly, returning to the earth. Its power is enough to make the strongest person paralyzed with fear of being seen, of being known. It’s healing properties reach the most unseen and misunderstood crevices of our lives. It cracks open hard stones to reveal the beauty locked away. It sets us free.
A full life is lived in love, saturated in it, consumed by it, overwhelmed by it.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
My life is hidden in the shadow of this love. Love suspended – a sky heavy with rain. It falls at will and soaks me to the bone when I least expect it. Drying, it returns to the sky only to fall again.
Keep your umbrella. Keep your waterproofs. Dance in this rain. Run barefoot through the streets.
And let me love in return. Let me show you what it is to live this way.