“A voice is crying – in a wilderness -Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in a desert a highway to our God. Every valley is raised up, & every mountain & hill become low, & the crooked place hath become a plain, & the entangled places a valley.”
“Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40: 3-5 (Young’s Literal Translation/NASB)
Words like: wilderness, valley, mountain, crooked and entangled, remind us that life is like an obstacle course and it’s easy to get stuck and to feel alone.
Last night, I dreamed that I went along on a missions trip with some other folks I didn’t know, to a tropical island I had never heard of before, with a name I couldn’t pronounce. When I arrived, my accommodations were less than comfortable and I was late for breakfast. My purpose for coming along on the trip was to sing, but a man at the table informed me that I’d have to stay back because somebody else had thrown a fit and they were going to sing.
“What!” I exclaimed.” “I paid all this money and came to some place I can’t even pronounce and you won’t even let me sing?”
Their reply was, “Yeah, sorry dude.”
So I did what any self-respecting diva would do; I grabbed my bags, jumped in someone’s car and declared that I was goin’ home! I whipped the stick shift in reverse, turned around and headed out of town. Some nice lady was chasing behind the car. She was yelling, and I could here her asking if I knew the way out. ”Of course I do…don’t!” I’d already started up the mountain that I was sure would lead me back home, but it was overgrown and I couldn’t follow it. I tried to stop but slowing down forced me backwards down the hill, so I jammed on the brakes.
Suddenly, a man I did not recognize (but who must have been important because he was wearing a bluetooth device) asked if I would let him in the car so he could show me the way out. Once he was behind the wheel the road just opened up, and what had previously looked like inaccessible terrain had become a lovely little two lane that led to the open world where I boarded a plane and headed for home. Not only did my bluetooth hero lead me out, but he also explained what had happened in a way that I could understand.
It turns out that I had invited myself along on the trip. Apparently, I had felt some unnecessary sense of responsibility to go along, as had most of the people on the trip. None of them really wanted to be there at all, but felt like they should do this thing. They were stuck in the land of should and I was lucky to have gotten out.
When I woke, I dismissed the dream as entertainment. But all good entertainment mirrors reality to some extent. As I pondered the dream, I became quite certain that I have been, and perhaps still am to some extent, stuck in the land of should.
Anxiety, disorientation, confusion, burnout, depression, exhaustion – the crazed look of a settler who’s been on the frontier too long – are looks I’ve seen on faces at minister’s conferences, people in church pews, and…in the mirror.
Sometimes, for me worship is crying out in the wilderness. And in my crying out, I can begin to see a way out: a road forming in the desert; a mountain that once hemmed me in now blown to bits; a valley that I had allowed to define me becoming an elevator floor lifting me up; the crooked tangled path of my past becoming a smooth, straight thoroughfare that leads me out of the land of should and into the land of God’s rest.