Several years ago, during a long and drawn out season of healing, a pastor offered Isaiah 35 as a prayer for me and over me. It accompanied me for a while before I tucked it away inside a journal and let it slip from my view.
At the beginning of 2015, and I love a new calendar and the first of January like I love dark chocolate, I opened my bible. The satin string marking Psalm 65 had waited for me all through Advent.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy. v.9-13, NLT
I created a hashtag and called the coming calendar days the year of green wilderness. My eyes were fixed on the horizon, watching for beauty and longing and hope and promise and for lush pasture in the wilderness. I combed through all my old journals searching for the Isaiah prayer, and attached to the same paper was another prayer about the wilderness and how it may be that I would inhabit those wild places as a pioneer and guide, to clear the pathway for those coming with me and behind me.
The whole of 2015, and beyond, my view of the wilderness changed. I combed through scripture, watching for the ways the writers described the barren and wild places, looking and listening for the ways in which God used the deserted areas to shelter, teach, and come near to God’s people. I observed Jesus withdrawing to the lonely places for reprieve from the crowds and communion with God.
Like noticing how many other people have the same vehicle as you do when you get a new one (or a new old one), I began seeing wilderness everywhere--in poems and stories and songs, on signs, branding, social media accounts. The green things growing manifested in the ways my understanding was being changed. It manifested in how others took notice of the hashtag and began looking for the green and growing things sprouting in unexpected places in their lives.
It is a tension: the green and the wilderness. We associate the wilderness with dry, dusty, fruitless, lonesome. We associate green with the lush pasture, spring, newness, abundance, fruitfulness. What if both were true, at the same time? What if we didn’t have to resign ourselves to either/or? Even in the difficult obstacles and seasons that do come, that will come. Even in the glorious and blissful moments and times that do come, that will come. What if glory and goodness and green exist in the wilderness? What if the wilderness invites us to sanctuary? What if there is “a waking in every wilderness”?*
This wilderness journey, this holding the tensions, this thinking and writing and speaking and exploring and encouraging and praying and growing—it marks my life. Thank you for joining me in the Green Wilderness.
*”Your Days Are Waiting” from These Intricacies by Dave Harrity