How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
~ I John 3:1
It's a very foggy and still morning here today. In fact it is almost completely silent, except for a passing truck off in the distance. There is no air moving at all, and I can nearly capture the fog in my hand because it is so thick and heavy. It is the kind of morning where I just want to sit and listen. Listen for the first birds to stir. Listen as my neighbors begin to awaken. Listen, as I hope to clearly hear God speaking.
This morning I feeling many things, but most of all, I sense the wilderness. Not all wilderness experiences happen silently in the desert. Sometimes the wilderness happens in places where you least expect the experience. Sitting at a stop light in an intersection where there are no cars, but yet, the timing of the light requires you to wait. You look at the light, watch, and your mind begins to drift.
So often in seminary the wilderness appeared after eating lunch, and my Old Testament class was held in a warm classroom afterwards, where the two hour lecture seemed to be more of a lullaby. At times I would excuse myself to walk down the hallway so that I wouldn't embarrass myself, or disappoint the professor by falling asleep in the middle of a thought-out lesson plan, the whole time, talking to myself and reminding myself of the importance of staying alert.
While John was a voice in the wilderness, announcing the impending arrival of the Kingdom of God, today the wilderness if filled with so many voices. Voices that can monumentally move us forward when we have lost our way, and then those who can cause us to sink deeper into doubt and the unknown.
The day that Jesus was baptized in the wilderness by John, the voice of God descended, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
For Jesus, this voice in the wilderness identified Jesus as the beloved.
For most of us, we struggle to hear our own voice, nevertheless a voice that confirms who we are, but that is most generally because we are too busy listening to the voices around us, rather than the voice that comes from deeply within. So many of our wilderness experiences occur because we are too busy trying to discern which voice we are to listen to.
Jesus, at the end of his life, he said to his disciples, “Listen: the time will come— indeed has come already—when you are going to be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32).
Suddenly I realize that voice that spoke to Jesus in the wilderness while he was being baptized are the words already spoken to us, as brothers and sisters. This morning I am reminded in the fog that we all are invited to receive these words fully. In some miraculous melody in the silence, I find that I am set free from the wilderness. Our compulsion to provide some kind of reason for our existence to the world, is met with the realization that I can live in the world without surrendering to belonging to it!
The voices in our wilderness experiences cannot match the voice of the One who has already spoken. Once we realize that we are God's "beloved," child, unconditionally loved, then we can go out into the world and fully be who God has created us to be. For each of us, these are the words that we must remind ourselves has been spoken when we find that we are wandering once again.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.