This promise from Isaiah is one we see with new eyes right now as our ways of being a church community change right before our eyes. God and Jesus may be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but that is a part of God’s image that does not shine through us humans. We are changing and growing from the instant we are born until the day we die. The changes are more obvious when we are infants growing into young children, and when we are pre-teens growing into young adults, but even in our old age, we are in the vulnerable state of having to perceive the new things God is doing and find the way God prepares in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert.
Here’s the not very surprising part. This is hard. It is so hard that we often get hurt or even broken when we are going through these changes. These difficulties could be enough to make us run back to the way things were before, but then we would miss the new thing God is doing. So, we keep wrestling, keep perceiving, keep changing and growing, keep getting broken.
In her book, God, Improv, and the Art of Living, Mary McKibben Dana includes this prayer… “May I break in interesting ways.” She says, “It takes courage to step into the unknown without a guarantee of success, a plan, or even a net. It will change us, touch our vulnerability, reveal our brokenness. The key is to see the brokenness not as a threat or a cause for shame, but a source of strength. When we’re willing to be broken in interesting ways, we allow ourselves to be part of a larger, unpredictable story.”
What will never change is that the larger unpredictable story we are part of is God’s story. God is with us, and hopefully during this time of change we understand Emmanuel, God with us, even better. We are wounded. We are weary. We are blessed with God’s presence and God’s providential care. We are grateful. We are broken in the most interesting ways. And so we have hope.
When we embrace our brokenness as a source of strength and a resource for perceiving God’s new thing, we live with a sense of hope rather than cynicism. Hope takes courage. Hope takes commitment. Hope takes the work of choosing everyday to develop our spiritual muscle memory until hope is instinctive.