womanShe asks, “God what is your purpose?”

Her head pounds, making such a racket she can’t form a coherent thought sometimes. In her room with shades drawn, against her cool sheets she tosses and turns to get comfortable and asks, “God what are you doing with this?”

Her once strong and energetic legs that limbered on for miles in the morning sunshine feel wobbly as they carry her through tiresome days. She celebrates the things her agile body once did easily, like folding and putting away laundry and lifting the awkward mattress to fit and tuck the sheets.

And as she feels weak under the weight of the chores of a day, she asks, “God, how do you expect me to carry the weight of Cancer?”

Blinding shots of pain fire in her gut and pulse steadily through her body like the drip, drip, drip of a coffee pot, as she wonders if the fire burning a hole in her chest is fear, or anxiety, or something else malignant.

She can’t trust herself. Her own body has betrayed her. And though her mind remains intact, she feels her head and body are in a race together and her body is puttering out and gasping for breath while her head remains tireless as it hurdles on with thoughts spinning so fast they run her in circles. But more than the thoughts are the questions. Like a burr in her mind they attach and fester, “Are you there God?” “Do you really love me?”

Another man watches his life waste away behind the iron bars of a putrid prison cell. No longer nourished by locusts and honey, his body vanishes as his skin stretches over the contours of his bony frame.

The wild and confident man who once cried, “make straight the way of the Lord!” now bows in uncertainty, with a question instead of a declaration.  As John the Baptist sits in prison, he begins to question if Jesus is really the one.  He sends two of his disciples to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Alone, hurting, confused by the unexpected path God has taken him; confused because Jesus doesn’t look like the Messiah he was expecting, John the Baptist doubts. He questions.

Jesus doesn’t respond in anger, but in encouragement. He points to what’s happening on the outside- the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised- as prophesied in Isaiah. But more than that, he points to John himself for an answer-who I AM is revealed in you- “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt.11:11)

Because the prophets’ riddles are made truth in him. Men are made well in him, but John, don’t you see, you are living proof of him. Living proof when you were conceived, your mother ripe and fertile at a barren age, dad stunned silent. Living proof when you made a way in the wilderness, proof in the Jordan when you dipped the head of the son of Most High and were kissed by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Living proof even now as you wait in despair, because though your body “is wasting away, inwardly you are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor.4:16 emphasis added)

Yes John knows the answer to his question. He knows it in his weary bones. He feels the burn of it in his concave belly. But in his dark prison John needs a reminder. And Jesus meets him with love, and with evidence that goes deeper than physical proof, As Emily Freeman sums up in her book Simply Tuesday, Jesus points to ” the heart of John himself,” saying, “In other words, my works are evident in the world, but my life is evident in you.”

Like John, she turns to God for for answers. The rocks of fear and doubt form a lump in her throat as she stares into darkness, her alarm clock glowing red numbers, 3:38 am. She lays and stares at the shapes and shadows of her once familiar bedroom until an acceptable hour when she can creep out onto her cobblestone patio. And in the sunrise of the morning, when the sky is a soft pink, life seems more bearable, and God feels closer. He whispers to her, as the hummingbirds kiss and flutter, and the fingers of gold beams caress her wet cheeks, He fills her up for just another day.

God numbered her days, she doesn’t know the count, but she has a groaning hope that seeps out of her like water from the cracks of a pot. It spills streams that escape and gather in corners and gaps between stepping stones, watering the clover and dandelion that sprout up wild and unbidden.

She feels small. She feels human.

But God came to earth in infant smallness. Jesus groaned in human pain. Cried human tears.

God comes to her with answers that seep deeper than the evidence she sees in the orange blossoms and the monarchs, the soft breeze that make her wind chimes tinkle and the leaves rustle. The living God that spoke to John, fills her body with His warm presence and whispers, “my life is evident in you.

Its easy to take for granted the life that we breath in. But when we’re gasping, when we’re sucking in and searching for our next breath, He breathes in us.

She sings songs of praise. Through his tears and pain he shouts in joy to the Lord. And in her story, through his life, God is living His purpose in them. God is living His purpose in us.

“For God Himself fights by our side, with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse,
Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!”

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2 comments on “John The Baptist in Prison Asks a Question”

  1. Lindsay, this post is filled with so many hauntingly beautiful images. This one, “He fills her up for just another day,” for example. You really caught the essence of our human frailty and our utter dependance on the One who “breathes in us.” Thank-you.

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