I have some dear friends who built their dream home out in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t make sense to me at first. Their careers and schools, friends and community all demand at least 45 minutes of driving.
If you live in a bigger city, that commuting time might not sound too crazy, but these people have decided they want the Tulsa life without one of Tulsa’s biggest perks: proximity. They keep everything at a distance they consider appropriate while the rest of us wonder how many tanks of gas they go through every week.
With what they spent building that home so far from town, they could most definitely have found a spacious spot within city limits with more feasible proximity to their daily lives.
But no. They’ve deemed it best to do what is utterly impractical.
A famous passage in Isaiah, one that’s repeated near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the new testament, admonishes us:
“In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
You remember the rest—raise up valleys and lower the hills…etc.
You might’ve been aware of this your whole life, but it seems my Bible Belt was tied too tightly around my head for me to consider what’s being said here. Prepare a way for the Lord? A highway for God?
If you’re going to build a highway, you must first consider where it needs to end up.
Is there a place in which God is not present already?
Where is God trying to go?
And why does he need my help to get there?
We spend a lot of time talking about the journey on which God has placed us—but Isaiah 40 has me wondering for the first time, What journey is God on?
They’ve built a gate as well. After 45 minutes of driving, praying your GPS isn’t wrong, and slapping yourself for forgetting coins for the toll booth, you arrive at an all-encompassing gate.
The gate is nowhere near their front door. In fact, you can’t even see their house from behind the gate. That’s right, not even Uncle Rico in his prime could throw a football from their gate to their doorbell. Why do they even have a doorbell? No one gets down that curved, tree-ridden gravel road toward their driveway unless they buzz them in a quarter-mile away.
If you lived in dorms during college, you understand the annoyance of unwelcome, unwanted neighbors popping in whenever they want. That never happens to these folks, no way. No one gets into this house by accident—they’ve made sure of it.
This is about the sort of terrain God encounters when he pursues you. The journey God is on starts in his throne room and ends in the one place into which he will not force his presence—the human heart.
Isaiah’s admonition is about tearing down whatever obstacle course we’ve put between ourselves and God. Jesus’ destination was the cross, sure—and he made certain that curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. The reason his resurrection didn’t mean the removal of all evil from all the word is that he’s given us utter access to himself. It is on us, however, to give him access to us.
Of course, this is where your eyes glaze over at the insulting suggestion that you’ve been reading something aimed at reaffirming your belief in our need for salvation. No, this is not that. This isn’t about your journey. This is about God’s.
My friends have to go through several highways and loops just to get to their jobs or school every day. I am writing to ask that you’d join me in considering what sort of journey we force God to go through to get to us every day.
What have I put between him and myself? Sure, he’s faithful to break through and deliver peace and provision, attention and understanding—but I’ve erected quite the array of detours.
I wanted to get rid of the obstacle course. I didn’t want to be God’s furthest frontier, the “Out West” his Lewis-and-Clark heart has to risk everything to get to each day. I figured I could pray it away. “God, please remove the obstacle course I’ve put between us, that you would have the sort of access to me you’d prefer.”
Of course, God does things his way.
When prompted to remove the obstacle course of a life I built for myself, full of delightful distractions and decadent detours, he didn’t touch any of it. He didn’t move the obstacle course, he moved me.
He interrupted my journey to have me join him on his.
Where are we going, God?
To your heart.
But God…I’m right here?
Wouldn’t that mean my heart is here as well?
It used to! That was the original idea.
Then where is it?
Wherever we build it.
It makes sense only now—that God removes us from the busy city where we’ve made a nice little life for ourselves—often leaving the obstacle course of careers and mundane details just as they are while moving our soul to a place that seems to be out in the middle of nowhere.
The younger son in Luke 15 “came to his senses” and realized he had it better back at home. Until we come to our senses about the heart-lobotomy we’ve inherited, we might mistake those one-bedrooms in the noisy cities of society to be all we were made for.
Where are we going to build it, Lord?
Out in the middle of nowhere. Far away from that cute obstacle course you had me going through and those distractions you’d deemed worthy of your time.
Oh, that’s right…
“In the wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord.”
Why out here?! So far away from everyone and everything?
Because, friend, it has to be big enough to fit us both. That’s what you wanted, right?