I couldn’t say my name when I was five. The letter “L” was impossible, the “R,” tricky. My name, Laurel, required mastery of one or the other. The sound tumbling out of my mouth in an untidy heap was not my name. Awkward, mumbling, “Ohwell” confused unsuspecting adults who asked, “What is your name?”
I stumbled over six letters arranged to identify me. Was it my tongue or a vengeful fiend dogging me through those childhood years? It pursued me to kindergarten. It tripped me when I met a new friend. Like a specter of shame, it moved with me to a new home with a new dad. Kol korei bamidbar is the Hebrew phrase for “a voice crying in the wilderness”. It is a simile for someone speaking, but no one listening. Like me with a speech impediment, I had a voice, but wasn’t heard.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)
The voice in Isaiah 40 speaks in the middle of imperfect circumstances. I like to wait until life is a sunny garden, pruned and weeded, before I acknowledge anything of value in me. But God likes us right now, in the middle of our imperfections. Like the mother of a two-year old, He understands our voice when no one else does.
How could a voice formed in a barren desert prepare a way for others? When kings planned an expedition in Old Testament days, they sent “forerunners” ahead to find supplies, build bridges and cut paths through dense forests. The only evidence of their success was how well others followed. These ordinary people were in new, unexplored territory. They made mistakes. Those mistakes didn’t matter as long as they just kept moving forward. Mistakes didn’t nullify their work, they were part of finding a way for others.
For a long time I let my own mistakes haunt me. They paralyzed me because I let them. I didn’t realize those mistakes were just me in uncharted territory, forging a path that would help others in time. Along the way He formed a voice through my journey. It was His wisdom. It came when I faced the torrential rivers, cavernous valleys and towering mountains of life. It came because I asked. He spoke and I listened.
So when the ghosts of childish impediments screech, let the sweet fragrance of His wisdom speak. Someone will listen. Someone needs the trail you’re blazing. However flawed, your voice will make a way in someone’s wilderness.