Duke graduate, Enuma Okoro, says, “Openness to God demands our growing acceptance that we cannot create blueprints for our own lives.”
Blueprints shape our self-story; a story we mistake as eternal, one to which we cling for security and meaning, one we craft to suit “us.” As 1st century Jewish identity was grounded in the Temple, often, our identity story is grounded in “us.”
Sunday Advent 1 tells of darkened sun, lightless moon, of falling stars, of heavenly powers shaken, of endings where we watch in stillness, wait in quiet. Sunday Advent 2 shows that we wait, not at the predictable Temple, but in the unpredictable Wilderness—where our self-story collapses.
Advent 1 shows the end of all things “us,” landing us in Advent 2’s wilderness where we feel numb, lost, insecure, unsafe, endangered, and angry. This is our painful challenging in-between space where we await “One who is more powerful,” where self-stories lose their power.
Some here know wilderness well, where self-stories failed.
What is your story of ended things or things soon to end? Aren’t those stories opportunities where openness to God demands your growing acceptance that you cannot create blueprints for your own life?
Isn’t that your wilderness path, the place where wilderness prepares the way of the Lord?
Didn’t wilderness prepare Ancient Israel for the promised land?
Didn’t wilderness prepare John for ministry?
Didn’t wilderness see Jesus baptized?
Isn’t wilderness where Ancient Israel learns to trust and walk with God?
We can no more hide from Wilderness than we can hide from ourselves, for Wilderness prepares the way of the Lord. And, there’s good news in this for Wilderness is where “One who is more powerful” meets us.
Wilderness is where self-stories are abandoned. It’s where we “keep awake” and “prepare” by dealing with our idols, our fears, our sins, our hopes, ourselves.
Wilderness shows the truth of who we are; shows that we require more than ourselves to get by in God’s universe. We find that we need “One who is more powerful.” For isn’t Wilderness where God gives us John, as Wilderness guide?
John cries in Wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” But—God-given message or not—we’re prone to dismiss John, for we say, “the clothing makes the man.” We judge the gift by its wrapping. We form impressions of others based on their attire. But, if externals do speak to internals, doesn’t this mean that Wilderness has moved John beyond such obstacles of grace towards “One who is more powerful?” Wilderness has moved John past surface level impressions, past people-pleasing, caused him to see his unworthiness to loosen Jesus’ sandals, caused John to abandon his life’s blueprints, and his self-story. Truthfully, who chooses that life? Who wants to wear camel’s hair and eat bugs? No one plans for that life. Wilderness took John there.
To John, to you, to me, Wilderness inspires openness to God offering a new, better, more life-giving story. Wilderness opens us, frees us, sets us up for a new story to become our own. Wilderness is where we let go of our old self-story and all that it forces us to bear, where we escape our old self-story’s confinement, where a new story shall make our skewed path straight, a highway for “One who is more powerful.” And that means we cannot continue to have our self-story, cannot continue with that self-made story crafted from blueprints all our own. We must rely, no longer on ourselves and our self-story, but on the wilderness story of “One who is more powerful.”
Right now, upon which story do you rely? Is it your self-story or a Wilderness story of “One who is more powerful?”
• Consider your relationships; how you strive, compete, and compare… and what of self-made expectations placed on self and others. Whose story is that?
• Consider your time management, calendar, checklist…replete with too much to do, little time for rest and reflection. Whose story is that?
• Consider judgments and assumptions made about others…the need to people-please, or to have things done a specific way to please you. Whose story is that?
And how much of this is tied to self and our self-story, rather than the Wilderness story of “One who is more powerful.”
What’s our Wilderness truth?
Isn’t it true that our reliance on self and on our self-story tosses roadblocks in our path, inhibits us from receiving a new story, inhibits our Wilderness journey into the story of “One who is more powerful?” And, whether intentional or not, isn’t this truly claiming ourselves and our story to be the more powerful one? And if that’s the case, then our Advent waiting is over for we’ve already arrived.
But if the truth of this gives us pause, then let’s leave here as different people, different from those who came, laying down our self-stories and receiving the Wilderness story of, “the One who is more powerful.” Wouldn’t that mean that everything for us would change because our story changed? that Wilderness prepares the way of the Lord by simultaneously ending our self-story and beginning in us the story of “the One who is more powerful?”
And, what a difference would such a story make, were our openness to God to allow Wilderness to work the story within us that starts with these words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
“Openness to God demands our growing acceptance that we cannot create blueprints for our own lives.” I suppose Enuma Oroko is right—for a far better story, made of far better blueprints, one that begins and ends in Jesus, one that relies only on Jesus, awaits us. And Wilderness reveals this story to us, and in us, if we’re open to it. Here in Advent’s Wilderness let go of your self-story, and you will see.