Over 2,500 of you have accepted the Thirty-Day Quiet Time Challenge this month, and have successfully completed the first full week! This morning’s reading had us in Luke 3. The part of the book where John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus. We all know the familiar story – the hairy and lonely man out in the desert eating locusts for lunch has a dramatic and unrecorded encounter with God. One that gives him a voice. And a burning within him to get his message out.
I remember being in college and realizing for the first time that John the Baptist was the one that began the act of baptism. Out of nowhere, baptism pops up in Scripture. Referring to the act as if it always was. Where in the world did this come from? I remember thinking.
It was only recently, as I re-read the story in Luke in anticipation of publishing Day 7’s email, that it really hit me. It literally came from God. As an unrecorded, divine message. A holy conversation between God and the man He had called to prepare the world for the long-awaited Messiah. And an unheard-of symbolic and very deliberate choice for men and women alike to plunge themselves fully clothed into the water as an outward act of repentance.
Until that point, Israelites wore their heritage proudly. Their children-of-God bloodline was a shining armor. They were chosen. And that was enough for them. Until this strange, hairy man came out of the desert with locusts still stuck in his teeth and the remnants of wild honey still sticky in his beard. He had a new story to tell. A new requirement to make of the all-too-comfortable-in-their-rich-lineage-Israelites.
His message? Repentance. But not just repentance. Repentance as displayed through the obedient act of baptism with water. And soon, a Man will come that will baptize with the Holy Spirit and water. I promise, he says breathlessly. He’s coming, and He will do this, and repentance matters. It’s the good fruit that’s grown on a healthy tree. And He will cut down the unhealthy, non-repentant ones!
It got me thinking about how terrifying it is to boldy declare a message that you truly believe in faith. A message that God Himself has given to you – you’re sure of it. But everyone else? They aren’t so sure. They’re a little skeptical.
But here’s the thing: John encountered God when he was entirely alone and out in the wilderness. The Greek indicates that it’s not only solitary, lonely, desolate, and uninhabited – it is also desert by others; deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially friends, acquaintances and kindred family. Sometimes we need to stand firm in the promise that God has given. Speaking the truth of it obediently. And not becoming discouraged when other people have trouble believing it. Because what He calls us to in our solitude, He alone will carry out.
It was about 3:00 in the morning last October when I sat in the Atlanta living room with some dear friends that I learned this lesson very clearly. My girlfriend had gone to bed, and another friend and I stayed up late talking with her husband when the topic of our family came up. And our plan. We were 9-1/2 years into our wait, still believing unwaveringly that God would perform His miracle. And that we were to do nothing. I’m getting ready to stand on stage in front of 200 women and tell them that we believe that God will do His miracle, and we are supposed to do nothing but wait, I said.
And my friend’s sweet husband looked me in the eye. And with the bravery to say what so many other people were thinking, he told me: Jane, you know I love you and Josh. And we support whatever you guys decide to do 100%. But I have to say: you’re crazy.
And I laughed. And agreed. I knew it was true. And I knew it was hard to believe. But I also knew that it wasn’t their job to believe for me. And that night, in the early-dawn hours just before I melted into bed, I stood in the bathroom gripping the sides of the sink. And I prayed. God. You’ve got to do this. I’m about to tell 200 women that You’re going to do this miracle. And we’re believe You for it. GOD… DO. IT.
And I reminded myself again of James 4:17. Knowing that my message was not to tell others they their miracle was also in the waiting. Their miracle could be in adoption. Or in-vitro. Or any manner of other things God had told us, specifically, not to do. But for us, we knew what we had to do. And for us, if we did not wait, it would be sin.
So, I stepped out on that stage. Delivering a crazy message that likely left me looking a little bit like John – with locusts stuck in my teeth and the remnants of wild honey lingering in my hair. But sometimes? Sometimes His promise is in the form of locusts and wild honey. And sometimes you look a little crazy getting caught in the act of faith. But, just like John, it paves the way for His glory.
And for His miracle.