“Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul – Spring ~ HIGHWAYS AND HOMECOMINGS” By Mark Buchanan (pgs. 87-92)


Isaiah concludes with two images that sum everything up — a highway and a homecoming. The first seems out of kilter with the passage as a whole: “And a highway will be there.” After all the garden imagery, this is jolting. It’s as if, smack-dab in the paradise of the Kalahari in full bloom, an expressway is built.

But of course, that image is misplaced. A highway in Isaiah’s time meant something substantially different from what we mean by it — overpasses and underpasses, cloverleaves and multiple lanes, guard rails and exit ramps. Yet our highways and his highway share this in common: they make hard places easy. Terrain that was once difficult, dangerous, and grueling to cross becomes smooth and straight and safe. Spring is when what has been tortuous, arduous, perilous becomes otherwise. The yoke seems easy, the burden light.

The hardest time, generally, to get from one place to another is winter. Navigating through the bleakness or wildness of a winter landscape is harrowing. That’s true literally and figuratively. Where I grew up, a February blizzard imperiled just getting to the mailbox. I can think of many winter car trips I’ve taken — one through the southern mountains of British Columbia under three feet of snow comes vividly to mind — that were muscle-clenching, white-knuckle affairs from start to finish. I can think of many flights I’ve had canceled or delayed by the treachery of snow and ice. Likewise, when I was in the wintertime of the heart, just doing ordinary, routine things — getting to one end of the day to the other — was exhausting, precarious, sometimes unmanageable. The idea of writing one more sermon (someone described preaching as delivering a baby on Sunday and finding out Monday that you’re pregnant again) was as daunting as crossing the Khyber Pass in January. Every counseling session set me on edge like I was venturing down a jungle trail in Vietnam in, say, 1967. Meetings were exercises in joyless endurance.

But spring made a highway. I could hardly wait to dismount the pulpit so that I could start gearing up to mount it again a week later. Counseling sessions intrigued me, how I might become to someone a fellow traveler and together we might discover God in the midst of their pain or sorrow or confusion. Meetings were war councils, where we plotted strategy to push the kingdom deeper into enemy territory, or where their were parties, where we loudly celebrated God’s many good surprises.

The desert had become a highway.

One of the most obvious and practical ways I see this at work in people’s lives is when their devotion to God shifts from burden to delight, from struggle to glide. They read God’s Word with hunger and the thrill of discovery. They pray with a sense of intimate closeness to God. The experience the joy of the Spirit shivering down their bones, as if what they just thought or said or did tickled God’s indwelling presence in his rib cage, and his laughter shook them, too. They seek and enjoy the company of other believers. They share with wisdom and winsomeness their faith with unbelievers.

It‘s as if the narrow way Jesus describes becomes, for a season, broad, smooth, flat, straight. It’s like the goat path of obedience becomes an autobahn. A road that used to be hard and lonely and long is now quick and easy, and almost always traveled in company.

Twice I’ve been to the Massai Mara in Kenya, the sprawling wilderness park crowded with wildebeast and zebra, abounding with cheetah and gazelle, trampled by elephant and grazed by giraffe, and much else besides. The first time I went by plane, a brief skip and jump from Nairobi. The second time, I went by car. That was its own kind of safari: a seven-hour trip over roads that, at their best, were narrowed and potholed, at their worst were virtually nonexistent. We inched along dusty, rutted shoulders, drove through scrub brush and trenches, corkscrewed down mountain switchbacks with rusty semis riding our tail. Twice we got stuck and had to have another vehicle winch us out. We arrived parched and grimy and bone bent. We just wanted to shower and sleep. I enjoyed the animals both trips, but the second time my enjoyment was shadowed by the thought that soon we’d have to drive back the same route.

Not long after I got back to Canada after that second trip, I drove to a community north of where I live. The highway is two lanes the entire way, with little traffic. It’s well maintained. Well lit. It has a concrete divider running it’s whole length to separate the opposing lanes of traffic. The road runs almost impossibly straight and flat from here to there: huge mounds of granite have been carved out to make it so. You can drive, legally, 75 mph for most of it. I arrived at my destination in less than two hours, fresh and strong, ready to do what I came for.

I covered the exact same distance from Narobi to the Massai Mara.

Oh, the difference a highway can make.

* * *

And spring is a homecoming. After long exile, return. After deep loneliness, reunion. The sorrow and sighing that marked our exile and our winter flee away.

Ran out, joyous singing take their place.

And best of all, the joy is everlasting. It seems like it will never end. It seems, in fact, it never ended, never left. That spring has always been here.

It’s good to be home.

Antwone Fisher is a movie named after the man whose story it tells. Antwone was a profoundly troubled youth, raised and abused in foster homes, who sought refuge in the navy. But his past kept catching up with him. His anger was hair-triggered, and he would brawl with almost no provocation. Inside, he was empty and tormented.

At the urging of a psychiatrist, Antwone goes on a journey to seek his mother. He eventually finds her. But the reunion is brief, painful, and awkward. She is bewildered and terrified by his presence. She never speaks a word to him. He leaves sadder than if he’d never found her.

Antwone returns to his aunt’s house. He found his aunt in his search for his mother. While he’s been gone visiting his mother, his aunt has assembled every living relative Antwone has: uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, grandparents. Roomfuls of people. And everywhere, tables laden with food.

Antwone walks in the house. He walks from room to room. His family, every last one of them, welcomes him home.

I think of many of the men and women I’ve watched come into our church. Many arrived alone; afraid, broken, sad. Many have never known their families; they’ve been raised in foster homes. Some wish they’d never known their families; they’ve been harmed deeply by neglect or abuse by the people who were meant to love them deepest.

I think of the day we baptized many of these people, usually in the river that runs close to our church. I think of them coming out of the water, leaping, yelling, weeping. We gather at the shore with them, hundreds strong. We pray for them. And I ask them to look up. Look around. Make eye contact.

“Here is your family, ” I say. And those who surround them, “Here’s your newest brother, your newest sister.”

Then I look the new brother or sister in the eyes. “You’re home, ” I say. “You’re really home.”

It always feels like spring then.

~ Darren’s Comments ~

“The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man. The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.”
‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭33:8-10‬ ‭KJV‬‬)

But, this confused me because I was comparing it to a modern highway. “Surely they didn’t have pavement way back then, ” I was thinking. “How, then, is the use of the highways appropriate then?” But to not look like a fool among my Christian brethren, I kept the usage of that term (highways) hidden for my lack of understanding. However, I prefer the way that Mark Buchanan puts it:

The highways are deserted,
no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken,
its witnesses are despised,
no one is respected.
The land dries up and wastes away,
Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah,
and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves.
“Now will I arise,” says the LORD. “Now will I be exalted;
now will I be lifted up.
(Isaiah 33:8-10 TNIV {Today’s New International Version})

Being much older and wiser, I like the way Mark Buchanan writes, so I tackled the fourth books of his; it was called, Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul. As I read, immediately I began to identify with what Mark had to say, especially at the season of the seemingly endless winter I was going through at the age of 18. If you’re not familiar with my great testimony, you can look at my testimony by clicking on Running With Christ . . .

Indeed, what I read, especially the part about what your soul feels like in winter, was dead on. But with time, you learn to adapt through the grace of God. And just like that, things that you have tried before seem to work. Although you’ve done it a similar way, the thing that you’re doing may have been done in the wrong season of your soul. But that is not giving you the excuse not to try something new. As long as God is the center of your life, whatever season you go through (be it summer, fall, winter, or spring).

For True Life Christians, there may be trouble in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus prayed a prayer to the heavenly Father. And it is John 17:

“When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you. You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him. This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created. “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. “I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe. None of them were lost, except the one who was destined for destruction, so that scripture would be fulfilled. Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy. I gave your word to them and the world hated them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth. “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me. “Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me. I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.””
‭‭(John‬ ‭17:1-26‬ ‭CEB-{Common English Bible})‬‬

If you read that chapter you will not be surprised by anything that comes your way as a True Life Christian. For us, TLC’s are given a warning by the Apostle Paul from Ephesians 6:10-20:

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.”
‭‭(Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-20‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

As for me, things have been a bit easier. I liken it to the first and the second trips of the Massai Mara in Kenya. One was easy; the other hard. Both had two different methods to get there. Both had intrinsic risks, but both got them there. What am I trying to say here? Just because a path has a little or a lot of difficulty to it doesn’t mean that it isn’t from God. Just take a look at Job in the Old Testament.

He was a person of upright character. God even said so. Even through the loss of his sons and daughters, even through personal pain, even through the counsel he received from his wife to curse God and die, and friends giving him wrong advice to figure out what he had done against God, and even Job himself wonders what this emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual pain is all about.

God finally responds and answers him in Job 39-42; there they have an outstanding dialogue in which Job concedes his rightness against God’s wisdom. And what do you know, God blesses him with twice as much as he had before.

There is no telling what God can do in your life, but you have to be willing to submit your life to God.

“How Do You Measure Your Spiritual Growth?” ~ Mark Buchanan

~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~