Today I want to focus on two passages in Isaiah which to my mind communicate the whole of the Spiritual life. First, there is God who in Isaiah 43:1 tells the Israelites: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; and you are mine.” God goes on to tell how he will protect them from harm. So this is God’s part—he has redeemed us, saved us, absolved us, reclaimed us, converted us. This is the promise, the grace, the blessing that he holds out to us. This is the context of our lives. It is totally up to us to recognize this truth. And God is awaiting our response. What is it to be? Indifferent? Luke-warm? Willing? Or ready?
Now look at Isaiah 6:5ff: Isaiah writes that he “saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” And with the Lord were seraphim who were praising the Lord. And Isaiah in agony, cries out, “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” And one of the seraphim touched his lips with a live coal and tells him that his guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for. The writer of Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?” And I said, “here I am; send me.”
Here am I, send me. This is how one who has seen the Lord and knows s/he has been forgiven answers. It really is that simple. First we have to believe what God is telling us: that we are loved, redeemed and forgiven, that we are saved from our own very human nature. We have to feel that love, redemption, forgiveness and salvation deep in ourselves, not just know it with our minds. Then we have to surrender ourselves to him—once to start on this journey and then every day at every turn and open ourselves fully up to the Lord that we might see him. And finally, we say “yes” to any call we hear from the Lord.
It is that simple, but it is not easy. For the spiritual life requires tremendous dedication, faithfulness, acknowledgement of all that we are—warts and all, perseverance and love. So like many good things we take on, we have to live into that faithfulness, perseverance and love. We will be met every step of the way with affirmation, support, with our needs met, with the presence of God, with the next step and the next step for us laid out. It’s like a dance in a way, the closer we move to the Lord, the more aware we are of his presence and gifts—blessings and grace– in our lives. The closer we move to him, the more awareness of him starts to fill us. Our minds quiet down. Our hearts open up to receive love, peace, joy and patience and to give it out again. Our soul starts to come out from its hiding place to inform us of our own true nature, who we were created to be. The Lord and our soul speak more and more to us about how to be our own true selves. As our minds still, we are able more and more to hear God’s “still, small voice” within.
It’s not that we move along a straight line towards God. There is a lot of getting closer and then pulling away. There is a lot of testing of how we can be with God. There is a lot of unfolding within ourselves that needs to happen, of allowing God more and more purchase within us, particularly in those places of deep memory where guilt and shame live. God will not come rushing in to heal us without an invitation from us.
And when we are still enough, when we wholly rest in God’s arms, then God’s voice really comes forward with the next step, the thing to say or to do, how to be with this person, what to do for that one and support and love and presence, God is providing for all our needs whether we are aware of this truth or not. If we can take in God’s presence and love for us, then we begin to relax, to really relax into who we are, into who we were created to be. And then we can be really useful to him in bringing in the kingdom on this Earth.
This is the promise of Isaiah: that our whole selves will be restored to the Lord, that we will realize our own true selves and that, in answering our call, we will live purposeful, meaning-filled lives.
Questions to ponder over the week: Where am I on the continuum between totally unaware of and completely aware of God’s presence? Have I surrendered my life to God? How often during the day do I need to continue to surrender my wants, expectations and assumptions about life?
Check out this month’s posting on youtube: “We Aren’t Terrible People”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPe-EMPdAxo
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