By Elisa Zwier, Teach Elkhart County program director
Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10 (NRSV)
The prophet Isaiah traces the people of Israel’s treacherous wilderness journeys past and present. Yet the passage is bookended by visions of joyful people and lush ecosystems. How did the people of Israel find pathways from wild places to oases? What fears kept them waiting?
One of my greatest fears is the death of loved ones, a trepidation you may share. “Why am I afraid?” For me, grief evokes wilderness within and without. The weak hands, feeble knees and fearful heart in today’s text sound all too familiar. When you reflect on your life journey, what fears rise to the surface?
Verse 4 pivots the narrative: “Be strong, do not fear.” These words can sound trite in the face of personal suffering or entrenched systems of oppression. Yet spoken in the context of relationships—with God, ourselves and others—they become a lived response to the question, “What am I waiting for?”
In my “one step forward, two steps back” movement between fear and hope, I find the work of Episcopal priest Rev. Alla Renée Bozarth (1994) insightful:
“Being able to fully face the reality of your loss depends on the balance between personal integrity and creativity. Integrity looks at something and says, what is, is. Creativity looks at something and asks, what new thing can come from this?”
A stance of integrity helps soften the edges of my fears, bringing mindfulness to these moments. Creativity nudges me to view wilderness seasons with curiosity. I long for this generative, hopeful energy in my life, for my loved ones, and for our world.
I invite you to ponder: What fears can you name with integrity? What joys might you remember or imagine? What glimmers of creativity can you spot within or around you?
Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10 (NRSV)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.
5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for Gods people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.