“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!” (Isaiah 40:3).
Welcome to Advent, everyone (albeit a bit belatedly, but welcome all the same)! Advent is all about preparation; it’s a time the Church—in her infinite wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit—has set aside for us to really reflect about how ready our hearts are to receive Christ, and to make them ready! Prepare the way of the Lord! We’re just about one week in, and I am really loving it so far. I’m noticing that God is moving in my heart in patterns similar to the way we celebrate His movement in His people as a whole during this season; I feel like I’m living Advent!
“Preparing the way” has been, and continues to be, a big theme for us here. The truth is, God has been working here, in this area, this community, long before we ever showed up; we just get to see how things are unfolding! And so our mission is one that works with and within God’s movement in this community. We have been entrusted with the task of being part of the preparation for the way of a Life Teen missionary presence here: to pray with and for the people we meet every day, to live a life of radical trust in the Lord, to invite other people into that life, to call people to go deeper in relationship with God, to be present to everyone and love them with the love of Christ. We’re not doing anything new as far as God is concerned; we’re just here, as St. Peter says, to “remind you of these things, even though you already know them [...] to stir you up by a reminder” (2 Peter 1:12,13). But we can’t just come in and DO—there is a lot of preparation, a lot of building, a lot of prayer, communication, and getting to know people, a lot of learning that is involved in this paving of the way.
I don’t know how much you know about laying paving stones—I’m not that familiar with the process myself, but I have been able to glean a little bit of information from my time spent at Covecrest (shout-out to Jason Ball—thanks for all your sidewalk-laying wisdom!). Paving a walkway is a meticulous process; it’s not just drop-and-go, you can’t just roll out a sidewalk in one day. First you have to get the bricks to the place you want to start laying them (ask anyone who worked on maintenance this summer at camp about how easy that is sometime). Next, you have to level out the ground where the walkway is going to be—and you have to be willing to re-smooth and re-level (with patience!) if someone happens to walk onto your path, not realizing you’re laying a walkway. Only then can you start thinking about laying the actual stones down (and by this time, most people are already sweating)! If you want to create a walkway with two straight, parallel edges, you also have to cut some of the stones to fit—and if you happen to have a curve in your walkway, there’s a lot of gradual filling in with little bits of stone to make it level and even. Every stone has to fit together just so, both for the structural integrity of the sidewalk and for aesthetics—you can’t just place stones willy-nilly wherever you want! Sometimes, this involves a painstaking process of going back over the sidewalk a second or third time to make sure the spaces where the stones meet are straight. Then there’s filling in, finishing touches, and—FINALLY!—you have a sidewalk.
Gosh. I’m tired just thinking about it!
In this process of our preparing—paving—a way here, I can sometimes feel rather like I’m doing it with a blindfold on; I can’t see where we’re going or what we’re doing, how much we’ve already done or how much still needs to be done. As a matter of fact, most of the time I don’t even know where the bricks are! Someone else (that would be God in this analogy) hands them to me and tells me where to put them—if I need to move a little to the left or right, if I need to cut some of the bricks in half, or shave off a little piece to make it fit. It’s hard to not know so much—and to realize that in the big scheme of things, my job is relatively unimportant. I’m just the manual labor! God has the vision and the plan, He has all the supplies and the knowledge of how to lay a walkway in the first place! He just needs me to do what He tells me, trusting that even if I don’t do it perfectly, He will come behind me and make all my crooked lines straight.
Thank you for your continued prayers as I prepare my own heart, so that I can better prepare the way, “…while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ when you would turn to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).