I have always felt myself in the middle of things--in between arguments, sides, ideas, always gazing on both and trying to pull together what stands apart, to find what good there may be in the midst of darkness. It’s one thing when this involves friends or family at odds, or my students (in fact I think what makes me a reasonable teacher is this ability, however painful it sometimes is to wield the sword of peace). It’s another when feeling in the middle involves just me, battling with my inner contradictions. Easy to get caught up in it rather than see it as opportunity--as a way to see beyond faults, failings, both within and without. To see the reality of grace.
As Advent continues, Isaiah remains my favorite to listen to, as a voice for those who, in between, seek direction. While we succumb to the sorrows of this world, his voice still resounds:
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (61:1)
The prophet’s voice, his “I,” was collective then as it is now. His message is not just about waiting or about letting “Jesus take the wheel,” as they say. Isaiah calls us to bind up, give release, proclaim liberty, release from darkness, bring good news. He was a prophet--he had the authority of God’s Spirit--but he calls on us to do the same, to realize that Spirit is upon us, too, to bring right and good into this world. There are so many brokenhearted, many oppressed, many held captive both wrongly (by others) and by false, internalized, and unreal expectations (self-hatred, bigotry, internalized and unscrutinized racism) or even held captive within themselves by fear or depression. Isaiah calls us from another time and place to bring all this crashing down, and do what John continues: in the desert, make straight a path. That path is to our hearts. That desert is the barren landscape of our souls. Let us begin.