Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. The beasts of the field, the jackals and ostriches, will honor me, because I have put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness to give water to my people, my chosen ones, this people whom I formed for myself, who will recount my praise.
Isaiah 43: 18-21 (CEB)
As we move closer and closer to Holy Week (Palm Sunday is next Sunday!) the time is coming to shift our perspective in Lent. The time for preparation and introspection is ending. The time is quickly coming when we will need to look up from our work, heed the words of the prophet and watch for the Messiah. Examining our lives, preparing our hearts, fasting and meditation are all preparing us for the moment when God will move, the Messiah will arrive and will pass by.
Will you recognize the signs, will you be looking up from your work?
It is easy to get busy with our work, to keep our hands to the grindstone thinking that we must soldier on in order for God to act. When our work is good it is tempting to keep at it because we know that God wants us to serve and work for him. The fasting and self-examination are all good things to do during Lent, but the time comes when the preparation must end or you may miss the actual event. Eventually you must step back and actually look upon your work and appreciate what and who it has all been for. One of my favorite film scenes is from Fiddler on the Roof. It’s the scene just before the Sabbath where the family is rushing around, talking, preparing, washing, setting the table and hurriedly getting ready. Everyone is rushing up to the final minute when the candles are lit and Golde and Tevye begin to chant the Sabbath blessing. At that point, all the preparation has ended, the Sabbath has started and it is time to recognize the holy moment that all the preparation was leading too. Everyone stops talking, everyone stops fretting. Everyone begins listening. Everyone begins watching.
Preparing for the Sabbath was important, but the Sabbath was going to happen whether they were prepared for it or not. The time came to stop preparing and start participating.
God speaks through the prophet Isaiah and simply says, “Look! I’m doing a new thing…don’t you recognize it?” The self-examination and fasting of Lent were all preparation for the arrival of God. By making space in our lives, by eliminating the roadblocks in our relationship with God we have essentially helped make paths in the desert and wilderness of our lives. We have opened up our lives for God to move in us and through us. Now, where the space has been made, the time has almost come for God to move and to fill us up. Streams in the desert create opportunities for new life to spring up. New paths help us to find new places and make new connections. The time is coming when God will act, the dry and empty desert will be replaced with fertile land and living water. God will direct us on new, righteous paths that open up new ways to approach him. Stop thinking on the old ways…it is all ancient history.
It is about time for us to drop our plows, put down our shovels, take our hands from our work and look up. It is time to realize that the work we have been doing has not been for us or about us. Our work has been for God in preparation for the revelation of the Messiah.