Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
“Why have we fasted,” they say,
“and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?”
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice,
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or spreading idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
-from the book of Isaiah
When I was in college, I spent my summers working at a Christian family resort in the recreation department. Each morning the Rec Staff met for devotions and then launched the day from there. (Well, sometimes the day launched with a 5:30 am canoe trip, and then we met for devotions after getting back.) One summer morning – my last summer there – we were reading from Isaiah. While my boss talked, I remember flipping a few pages ahead and stumbling across Isaiah chapter 58. As I read that chapter, my blood froze in my veins and I suddenly felt so veryheavy, as if the atmosphere was pressing me down into the thick mats that made up the floor to our climbing wall room upon which we were sitting.
The words on that page shook me to the core, and I remember thinking right then that this section of scripture was going to be very, very important in my life. I didn’t know what it would look like or when or how it would happen, but I knew then that Papa was saying, “This is important. Really important.”
In the timeline of my life, that morning sits just after my radical reorientation towards the Father and the Kingdom of Heaven that came through the discipleship semester and just before the Great Fall in which I systematically lied, cheated, stole, and flushed away nearly every single relationship that ever meant anything to me at all. I mean, sure, I’d had lots of “Falls” before, but they all paled in comparison to the Great Fall. Sitting with the Rec Staff that morning, reading Isaiah, I didn’t have a clue what lay before me. Never in a million years would I have imagined, in that moment, that I’d become the man I am today, having seen and done all that I have seen and done. It would have been incomprehensible to me.
Yet I am me. I’ve been everywhere I have been and done everything I have done, and I’ve crawled broken and bruised back to my Father. In the two years since I’ve had my ups and downs, and gritted my teeth more than once at the horrendous consequences of my actions as they limit my daily life and my dreams of a future.
That’s been a big thought in my head the last few months. I’ve been praying for Papa to help me realize that my idea of a future may not be his, and to help me accept with joy the future he does have planned, and on his timing. None of my prayers, talks, readings, or daydreams have helped me feel more confident and trustful in Papa’s future than this blog post by Richard Beck in which he uses, you got it, Isaiah 58.
No, I have no clue what my future looks like and yeah, I’ve disqualified myself from quite a bit.
But boy howdy, when I read that passage, I forget all about that.
When I read that chapter of Isaiah, I remember that it’s just not about me at all. It’s about Papa and his Kingdom, and if ever there was good news, well, that’s it. He’s big enough to handle me and transform me from a self-centered idiot that ruins himself and everything he touches into a man that spends himself on behalf of the heart of the Father. And if I never have anything else in this life – no money, no car, no house, no bed, no phone, no family, no friends, even no man at my side – then I still have Papa, and that’s enough.
So even if I’m at the absolute bottom -which I’m not – there’s still a future worth something. God’s still faithful, and that is awesome.