In the way that everyday experiences can become a meditation of sorts, this highway construction has really being speaking to me lately. Especially as we are in Advent and reading this passage from Isaiah again:
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”
Now in no way do I think the folks working on our highway are making a road for God, they are making it for the good state of Georgia. However, watching them work this past year has taught me a few things about what it means to “prepare a way” and “make a highway.”
For when I first heard these passages as a child I had this image of angels rolling our red carpets in the desert for the people of Israel to dance across on their way back to Jerusalem. Lovely image, but no. This is not how actual highway making occurs.
Making a road entails much effort and hard work.
So here are a few things I’ve learned about preparing a way for God.
It will take a lot of uprooting
The first three months of work on the highway entailed uprooting what must have been a thousand trees. This was painful for me to watch and quite messy. But there is a truth here. If we want to make a way for God to come into our hearts and lives, there are deeply rooted habits and beliefs that are going to have to go.
Habits and beliefs that are not of God and are not for our best. This uprooting will be painful. This uprooting will be messy. But in the end it is the best thing for us as it clears us out and makes space for more God to come in.
It will not always be pretty and convenient
Making a path for God to come into our lives is not all twinkly lights and songs sung to sweet baby Jesus. It is going to get ugly before it is all over with. When that which is not God is pulled out from within us, there is going to be some ugly that comes out.
For me it has been the reality of my selfishness and my lack of trust in God to reign fully over my life. I am not sure what your ugly is, but I know that we all have it.
There will also likely be places within you holding the deep hurts that get stirred up. Hurts that have caused us to believe untruths that hold us back from God’s best. When this all gets agitated, your life might be knocked off kilter for a while.
Like the time the construction workers putting in the new drainage pipes burst our neighborhood’s waters pipes. We were without water for nearly a day and when it came back on there was silt all in the lines. We had to run the water for quite some time to get it all cleaned out.
But really, don’t you want to be put together in a way that allows God’s grace to run through you full and clean, even if you have to flush the silt that has been lying deep within you out for days?
It will cause a lot of rearranging
I have watched in amazement as workers have re-strung power lines and re-routed pipes. I have even been amazed and confused as they have begun to alter the very path the road is taking. I know in the end this will all make traffic move more freely.
Likewise, when we make a commitment to follow God’s paths, its it going to take some shifting around.
Priorities and commitments will change. The way we spend our time and money will change. We will change the way we make room for people, much less make room for the very LORD.
And last but certainly not least:
It will take a long time
When I first heard the project near our house will take up to five years, I was shocked. And not in a happy way. I was kinda hoping the headache of roadwork would be over quickly in my life. Once I saw all the work that goes into making a road, I understand why there is such a long timeline.
But if I have been caught off guard by how long it takes to make changes to a state highway, I have been even more surprised by how long it takes to prepare for God.
I am coming to understand the wisdom of the church year having us celebrate Advent over and over every year. Preparing to make a way for God to come through us is a long term commitment. It is a process that we must come back to again and again and again. None of it involves quick easy fixes. All the work takes times and (sometimes arduous) effort.
Even though highway making is hard work, I pray that you find joy and meaning as you undertake the task of preparing for God to come once again this season. May the glory of the LORD be revealed to and through you. May we all see it together.
*For more on preparing for the LORD, see Brian McLauren’s resource We Make The Road by Walking
and a related resource by John Stonecypher We Make the Road with Kids.