The Startling Fact that Life…  Goes on

The child grew and became strong of spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel – Luke 1:80

I have a kinship, of sorts, with John the Baptist.  This is not a claim to be ready to share some great earth-moving prophecy with you, nor will I be sharing my best recipes for locusts and wild honey.  But nonetheless, something he understood, I believe that I understand. 

Scripture tells us that his father was silenced from John’s conception to his birth, silenced by the hand of an angel, and only upon the naming of his son did he speak again, his bottled up and distilled words over nine months had become nothing but jubilant praise for the Lord, and… prophecy. 

My son, he said…  will be a prophet of the Most High and will prepare the way of the Lord.  Through him God will bring light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and guide our feet into the way of peace! 

So… where did John go to train for all of this?  The wilderness.  When he came of age, he left home and spent years in wilderness solitude.  Luke records that he’s about the same age as Jesus, when we see him emerge from the wilderness (about 30), and first-century Jewish tradition considered you an adult around 20.  Assuming that perhaps he couldn’t “wander off” until then, that means John still spent at least 10 years in the wilderness…  the original sanctuary of God, before his words of spirit filled prophecy came forth from his own time of silence. 

I absolutely LOVE that. 

My kinship with John is this:  The wood, the wild, and the untamed places of the earth have always felt like sanctuaries to me.  The song of the red-winged-blackbird, the fall of the cottonwood seed in spring, the dance of autumn leaves, the hypnotic movement of water, the stable rocks and trees that reach deep into the earth…  they are always profoundly moving to me.  A picture though, is never enough, I must be there, and the longer the stay the better.  In these places I can see the handiwork of God, and in these places, I am confronted with the stunning reality that life does in fact… go on. 

Sometimes that truth is a comfort, as I leave the walls and screens of my man-made world and step into places that more clearly bear the fingerprint of God…  Sometimes it is a reminder that I am a part of something so much larger than myself, that even though I have somewhat, temporarily, succeeded in transforming and re-creating the square footage of my home into a world of my own making…  that’s a speck inside of God’s creation, and if I don’t constantly maintain it, the wild will overtake my man-made home.  It is a comfort to realize that I am not the god of the universe, it takes a load off. 

Sometimes that truth is a stunning insult, and a humiliation.  Stepping into the wild places after a life-event that was reeling…  the loss of anything significant, the change of a job, a moment of failure, or even success…  To walk in the wild after one of these is to be reminded that the birds sang, the deer ran, the trees grew before that happened to me…  and they will do so after.  It is jarring to be knocked out of my self-obsessed style of thinking (which often, and necessarily, and understandably, happens in any kind of crisis), jarring but helpful… and holy.  Sometimes the wilderness is even more effective at moving my heart to praise the Lord than the most beautiful of stained-glass sanctuaries (even though I really do love those too). 

Sometimes the stunning truth of God’s creation is an inspiration, as you sit still, and watch the wind.  A thing which cannot be seen, but that you can feel as it blows past your face, shakes the trees, moves the water, and is beautifully unpredictable.  It is a reminder that I have a place here too, each of us do.  We were created with the same beauty and intention as all other things that God has made, and with a couple of special responsibilities that belong just to us and not to the rocks and trees.  It’s always risky to talk about this, it dances on the edge of cheesy, it is a thing that must be experienced and does not translate well into words. 

A kinship with John the Baptist, that all of us can experience. 

It makes me wonder about that one day that is unwritten in the Bible but must have happened.  What must it have been like?  Where must he have been walking when the Holy Spirit finally spoke to him, through the rocks, the trees, the wild, and the wind?  What thoughts and emotions must have welled up within him when he heard from the Lord… “It is time” 

2 thoughts on “The Startling Fact that Life…  Goes on”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *