by John Shirk
Our guest writer today is our Director of Discipleship, John Shirk. John lives with his wife Amy and their 4 daughters in Chicago, Illinois. They minister to the postmodern artistic subculture and to victims of trauma and abuse. The tools of their ministry include chocolate chip cookies, vegan chili, and poetry. John is the author of A Sacrificial Poet.
Some people can’t look back on a long life of faithfulness. For them an encounter with God brings feelings of shame and unworthiness. We can’t imagine coming alive. We know what we have done.
Such was Isaiah’s encounter with God. He was immediately made aware of his sin and cried out: “Woe to me! … I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Standing in the presence of God made Isaiah feel helpless and hopeless. That might sound strange to some, but many of us can relate. We feel the same shame and guilt Isaiah did. “Woe is me!” is a normal response to the presence of the Almighty. Look what Isaiah does next: Nothing.
An angel takes a coal from the altar, touches his lips and tells him his guilt is taken away and his sin is atoned for. Isaiah has still done nothing. He is passive.
Then God says, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah has still done nothing. He finally does something. He answers God’s question: “Here am I. Send me!”
From “Woe is me!” to “Send me!” Isaiah did nothing. One moment he is a man of unclean lips. The next he is the mouthpiece of a Holy God. And he did nothing.
God wants us to enter His presence and confess the sin that is revealed in the light of His holiness. We don’t need to do anything about our guilt. We don’t need to atone for our sin. That is His job. He has already completed it. It is finished! But God did not want Isaiah to be passive forever. He wanted him to come alive.
Isaiah was not a great man. But God doesn’t seek out the great. God seeks out those who are unclean and willing to have their uncleanness exposed by the light — those who are ruined by what the light reveals.
But those who let God take away their guilt and atone for their sin are no longer the same. No longer unclean. No longer ruined. No longer passive. They come alive. They go for God. They speak for God!
And God works through them to change the world.
Maybe that is what we need when we feel hopeless and helpless. Maybe we need to stop focusing on our past failures. Our sins are forgiven. Our guilt and shame are gone. God calls us to come alive. He is not waiting for us to do anything but answer His call.
“Here am I, send me!”
(From Isaiah 6:5-8)