For a few fear-laced days, a dark cloud lingered in the corner; hissing, spitting chill winds of an incoming storm. The darkness whispered that we were alone in our need. That finally this time, after all the others in which He’d come at just the right moment, our Jesus would finally hang us out to dry. We’d leapt too far, it said. We’d been foolish; left the shore rashly, and were sinking to sure un-mendable doom. We’re riders of the self-employment coaster, and it sure can be a doozy with its drops.
I sat with my journal on the porch in the rain, hoping for medicine to still the shaking in my knees and the sinking in my stomach. I needed a double cure, and the medicine dispensed demanded Isaiah 55.
The Lord was shouting loud over captive Israel’s shoulder, and His words were landing square in my soul, “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink- even if you have no money! Come take your choice of wine or milk- it’s all free!”
That’s a good thing because I think Oliver Twist just co-signed on my account.
Literally and figuratively, I have nothing to bring in exchange for what I so desperately need: a strong helping of peace and trust for one hand, and the next day’s bread for the other.
Give us today our bread for today is what His words teach us to pray before the Father.
Fill the empty hands today. We’re not to hoard it in a backpack for tomorrow. Trust instead that what’s needed will be supplied at the moment it’s required. I’ve seen it happen over and over. Keep lifting up the empty hands and watch them filled with supply, not one moment too soon.
But what’s in the cup He hands to the thirsty? Wine- the drink of celebration. And milk, the stuff of sustenance.
What does your heart need? Cheer? Yes, go help yourself.
Courage? It’s on ready supply for the asking.
Faith? Just ask how much.
What does the body need? Real-time physical bread? Yes, all of it, I will supply.
And then on He goes: “Why are you spending money for what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy?” Why are you spinning your wheels? Your time, your heart, your precious peace and power on worry and anxiety- on the kind of work that only spins ruts in the soil. It’s a heavy yoke. And what will your worry amount to? Can it add a single inch to your stature or a single hour to your life? That’s a worthless kind of work.
“Come and buy”, He says. There’s volition in that, even if it’s buying for free. So, I get up. His word is packing the wound and I’ve stopped shaking a little.
But He’s not finished speaking.
“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.”
Not the pauper’s banquet. Not just enough to get by; to limp on through a pitiful life. He’ll pour out the good wine made from water by a word. He’s transforming my circumstance before my eyes. All it takes is a whisper of His, and the cast of the light is different. It’s not dusk but dawn; Hope is rising, not setting, and everything seems changed.
He promises abundance to the soul, so how do I lay hold of it, put the hand to the mouth when I’m too afraid to move?
Listen. Listen as if your life depended on it, because it does. Listen, and the inevitable consequence is that your soul will brim with the richest of fare.
A person really can’t know how that feels until she’s tasted it. Till she’s traded beauty for ashes, and knows the kind of feast He’s offering. The kind where you slide out from under the yoke, and find yourself thoroughly at peace. That’s the “richest of fare”. It spills over the edges of circumstances and gives a beggar a crown.
Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen and you will find Life.
And isn’t Life what I wanted in my need? Isn’t it Life I was fearing my finances would take? What these words tell me is that the only way I can lose real life is to stop listening. No amount of physical need can take it from me if I’m drinking deep in unseen places. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Open wide your mouth, open wide your ears. All the other things will be added. Can it be trusted? The history of experience tells me it can.
My eyes skim backward across the page, and I find solace for the question I’ve been asking. But why is all this happening? And I find there not an answer, but a comfort.
“Sing o childless woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor”
Sing, O woman who’s borne disgrace, o woman named a failure by her friends, o woman deprived of deepest need and seeming greatest honor.
And my immediate thought is why?! Why say this to a woman clothed in sackcloth and ashes, weeping, praying with such anguish that the passing priest thinks her drunk in the middle of the day? Why tell a woman that sorrowful to sing?
Because the Lord knows a secret that she doesn’t. Redemption has a power that matches and exceeds the fury of the storm.
“For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband”, says the Lord.
In the metaphor, she’s better off than even the woman to whom none of this barrenness and loss had happened. It’s the illustrated clothing of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted”. She’s in the plus column of blessedness. The Math of the Kingdom just doesn’t work us back to zero, to a balanced equation. It takes what was lost, and brings us up higher than level. He comforts those who mourn, and comforts with such torrential grace that we have it in abundance to hand out to every passerby who needs the same kind of comfort. 12 baskets of leftovers from the multiplied miracle bread. Where sorrow should have been the only food, it’s now being burned as fuel for a great light.
“Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense!” Lean into it, believe in Redemption, though it’s not yet come. Beauty for ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.
Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it, says the Lord.