Seven years ago in the pursuit of all things ME, I found myself face to face with these words…
“Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” – Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)
I sure did talk a good talk. But go down this list of what seems like EVERYTHING in life that really matters and ask.. do I walk a good walk?
That December, I was asked by a non profit organization if I would speak at their fundraising banquet. As this passage was fairly new to me and that I thought I had it all figured out, I decided to speak on these verses. Though the engagement went well.
I remember a conversation with God about a week later. I remember Him basically saying to me..
“Great job on speaking at that event and talking about living in such a way. But now, do you want to actually see what its like to live this way?”
Gulp. Uh-oh. You know that feeling you get when you pray for patience? That was me. It was almost instantaneous… my life began to unravel.
I remember having lunch with a good friend a few months later, which by then, I knew I was in for a long haul. (Or maybe it could have been much shorter, but apparently, I too like to wander in the wilderness for an extended amount of time.) But my friend stopped and paused for a moment as I was spewing out all the chaos, and then he looked me right in the eyes and asked me… what was I learning from this experience?
Have you ever had words come out of your mouth without even thinking that were the right words, but you were not even close to comprehending them? It was almost prophetic.
“I believe what I am learning is about the things that really matter. About how much time, thought, and effort I put into things that really don’t matter at all. I’m learning how selfish I am.” What a great soundbite. It’s too bad it wouldn’t be for another 7 or so years before I even began to fully respect what was going on.
“For I want you to understand what really matters..” – Philippians 1:10
As I wrestled with the words found in Isaiah 58:6-7 through the lens of my own life over the years, what I found was this… a life void of service to one’s neighbor, is a life in need of transformation.
I sure didn’t want to admit that at the time, but seven years later… so so true. My life was void of any of this. Though you would not have thought that by my words.
And so it began.
Today, seven years later I can only pray. I can only pray that progress has been my friend. But progress here is not built upon effort alone. Progress here is built upon surrender as well. For one’s heart cannot transform one’s heart. For me, it meant to surrender to the very Hands who made my heart.
In reading these words again, which by the way are found in Isaiah 58:67, I read them in The Message version..
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
A lot has happened in these past seven years. And as I look at what’s read here, I find myself excited to actually pursue these opportunities to serve. Such a far cry from where I was when I was only excited to actually just… talk about these things.
Please don’t get me wrong. This is not about “Hey, look at me and the good work I am doing or at least trying to do.” This is about a life that was in need of transformation. A life that was in need of healing. A life that was in need of a touch from the hand of God. …and I didn’t even know it. Truth be told, even still… I still need it, everyday.
In this, my forty years so far has been seven. I’m ready for the Jordan.
So, what is it that I really have learned? I learned that a life void of service to one’s neighbor, is a life in need of transformation. And it is in this transformation that I found the real truth about what I really learned and that is this.. that which really matters.
“Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”
I will write more on this soon. For this only scratches the surface. To live in such a way is to trust God. But how I was living, was to please God. And that plays right into that which has impacted me my entire life, my fear of abandonment and my need to feel approved.
To be continued…