I have this image in my head of all of us hobbling like soldiers toward the end of 2020.
I can see it so clearly: We are dirty and limping. Our clothes are torn. Some of us are crawling on our knees; others are being hauled along by our armpits by comrades who refuse to leave us behind. We are weary and broken-down and we're longing to make it home, to find healing hands and warm beds and hot food waiting to deliver us from this desolate battle for which we were unwillingly drafted.
We are ready for this year to be over and we're looking desperately for a finish line. A cease-fire.
We're hoping that when we cross the threshold into 2021 we will be able to stand up and dust off, wiping the remnants of the pandemic and politics and health crises and broken-heartedness far away from ourselves.
But we are longing for something that January 1 cannot do for us.
In Isaiah, God laments the pain that his children are experiencing, and what he describes doesn't sound too different from the way many of us are feeling right now:
"The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil."
I went for a walk yesterday and I wanted to pray but my mind was incapacitated by the overwhelm and I couldn't even string together one lucid sentence. As I shuffled along I used all my energy to mumble, "God, I wanna be with you, but I've got nothing. Not a thing. Can you be with me anyway?"
And in between the steady rhythm of my boots crunching snow, those words from Isaiah punctuated me thoughts:
Bruises, sores, raw wounds.
I thought of all of us who are going through hard things right now. How we are hurting in different ways, but how we've all got some sort of bruise or sore or raw wound. We all know what a sick head and a faint heart feels like.
And then these words poured forth like a welcomed salve:
Pressed out, bound up, softened with oil.
And I realized that's what God is longing to do for us, his battalion of struggling soldiers - to press out and bind up our wounds, and to soften all of our tough places with a healing oil.
He is saying, "Come here, my child, come here. I am aching because you're aching. Let me bandage you up and take care of you. Let me comfort you and give you the rest from the battle you're longing for."
God wants to gently turn us over in his hands and heal every part that's been broken. It's him that's going to dust us off, warm us up, and bind the wounds that this battle of a year has inflicted. While the thought of a new year might bring us some sort of hope for relief, the truth is that the finish line we are really looking for will be
found only in the outstretched arms of our loving Father.