A prisoner of hope

Return to the fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
Zechariah 9:12

I am a prisoner of hope.

Hope does not set me free; it binds me to the hard places, to the dry places, watching and waiting for the bud to blossom, for the river to run, for the promises of God to become a present reality.

Sometimes, I wish that God would release me: allow me to wallow in self-pity; to throw up my hands in despair and declare, “There is nothing to be done!”

Yet hope catches the lie between my lips and counters,
“Just wait and see what God can do.”

***

Keep me grounded, God,
even in those places that seem scorched and inhospitable;
when then are no short cuts – no way round – 
just a hard way across the wilderness
hoping, praying, begging,
for Your restoration to break through.

 

From the wilderness to wide places

The focus this Sunday within the Season of Creation series is on the wilderness: those barren, uninhabited, often dry, and inhospitable areas; areas which scientists tell us are actually expanding due to human activity and the burden that the every-increasing human population is putting upon the Earth’s resources.

The Earth is becoming a dry place in which to live – both physically, and also spiritually.  Just as the soil is losing its moisture and, subsequently, its diverse and protective vegetation, so too are many of us losing the nurturing and refreshing sense of God’s presence due to our increasingly hectic schedules.

Isn’t it ironic that the very desire for a better life, for the fulfillment of God’s promises of fullness and abundance, drives us at a frenetic pace into a place of scarcity and exhaustion – a place where we wonder at times how we are even going to survive the next few days, let alone the next couple of years?

It is here, in the wilderness, that the lament of the prophet Joel makes sense to us:

The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.  Despair, you farmers, wail you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree – all the trees of the field are dried up.  Surely the joy of mankind is withered away (Joel 1:10-12).

Yet, it is when we feel this way; when we have reached the point of realising that our own energy and effort is insufficient for securing our happiness, that our reserves have dried up and our joy in living has slipped away, that we can truly be open to the whispered invitation of God:

I’ll lead you to a spacious place; I’ll rescue you because I delight in you. (Psalm 18:9, paraphrased).

The wilderness is not something that exists out there, outside of us.  It is what we create within us when we let the pressure to perform and the desire to succeed erode away at precious time, important priorities, and the truth that God is always present with us.

The invitation this week is to allow God to call you from the wilderness into a wide place where you are open and attentive to God’s grace and tender care.  As you walk with God in the wideness may your joy be awakened, your strength restored, and your spirit refreshed.