A bunch of years ago, I went on a silent retreat during Holy Week. The retreat fell during a pretty complicated time, life-wise. One evening, as I was trying to pray with some of the particularly difficult pieces of the complexity, I asked God, What are you trying to teach me here? With more clarity and immediacy than I usually experience from God, an answer came to the surface: I’m not trying to teach you anything; I am trying to make a way for you.
Ah; that’s something else entirely.
The response didn’t change anything about the situation, but it changed the way I looked at where I was in my life. It helped me recognize that the pieces I was struggling with didn’t have to keep me stuck; God was somehow using them to build a pathway out of there.
I’ve been thinking about that as I’ve ruminated on the Gospel reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent. In Matthew 3.1-12, the wild, desert-dwelling, locust-and-honey-eating, camel’s-hair-clothing-wearing John the Baptist makes his appearance. “This is the one,” Matthew writes, “of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”‘”
John may eat honey, but, when he speaks, his words sure aren’t dripping with it. Brood of vipers, wrath, ax, fire: this is the flavor of the syllables that spill from his lips.
No time for niceties, for diplomacy, for etiquette, evidently. He is trying to make a way, and there are seasons when this is a focused and fiery business.
So I’m thinking about paths today, about the challenge and the grace of way-making, and how God does this in my life, in our lives. My path looks a great deal different than it did on that silent retreat years ago. It’s probably no less complicated, but the pieces fit together a lot better these days. Still, the road isn’t complete, and as I reflect on Matthew’s text, I find myself wondering, what chaff may yet need to be burned, that the way may become more clear?
And you, what way is God making in your life, and with your life, and through your life? What path is God fashioning in and with you in this Advent season, so that the coming Christ may find a way?