August 11th, 2005

rose window

Just when you least expect it

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And he said, "Go . . ."

Isaiah 6:1-9

This has always been an important passage to me. I was wrestling with a question of the future, wondering how to fulfill my call when the day finally comes to lay down the pastoral office.

And this answer came to me, very clear. While I could withdraw from the world, and do only what I wanted to do for whoever wanted to do it with me, that isn't what I was called to do. Being a hermit is all well and good, and my eventual retirement may be quiet and peaceful, but if I am going to do any sort of personal ministry after leaving "the job," then there have to be other people involved.

I was called to go and speak for God -- to communicate a message, to teach the faith, to preach the Gospel. That doesn't mean I have to do it till I drop, but it does mean that merely pursuing my private devotions is not the same. Perhaps this is why elaborate spiritual disciplines -- like using a lectionary or saying the daily office -- has never caught on with me. The problem isn't connecting with God (we natter on at each other constantly); the problem is connecting with other people. It is an introvert's fantasy to withdraw from the hassles of dealing with other people and just offering the gift of one's soul to God (and let others join in as they like, but that's their lookout, not yours).

Being open to other people, as tiring and frustrating as that is, is necessary -- at least, for me. God's not going to let me off the hook on this. I think he'll let me step out of harness some day, but I don't think he's going to let me hide in my head like when I was a teenager. He wants me to relate to others, to dig deep and give -- and that means also to openly receive.

Okay, Lord. I hear you. Just show me where and how.