I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; 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!” (Isaiah 6:5)
I feel like I’m going through a mini version of what happened to Isaiah when he saw God and collapsed in a pile, saw his own smallness and God’s bigness, his contamination and God’s holiness. He had had a long term relationship with God, had obeyed and served and ministered and thought he knew God. I’m assuming that, like me, God had granted him a measure of knowing, enough knowing for Isaiah to do the work he was called to: a meeting place with God, a zone of connection and familiarity in communication, hearing and obeying. He thought he knew God.
As a born and raised Christian, I’ve heard this passage hundreds of times. But I’ve ice-skated over the top of it because I’ve had no experience to take me to the depth of it. Being a cradle Christian in an environment that specialized in left brain knowledge of the faith left me with a kind of boredom of familiarity, like the “Wah wah wah” of adult speak in the Peanuts cartoon. It’s only as I connect more and more closely in a real relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that the ice is broken and I become immersed in the reality of scripture.
So I find in Isaiah’s collapse before ‘the King, the Lord of Hosts’ a link to my own experience. I’ve written before about ‘knotholes,’ those times of transition, of growth, of conviction and healing that we can’t pull ourselves through, when the ground we’ve been standing on for a season seems to shift, even collapse, and we are undone. I see these times as a necessary work of God to prepare us for the next season of life with him.
When he designs a fence that blocks my way, or maybe just reveals to me what’s been blocking my growth, all I see is a knothole. I want to go back to the previous season, to the gracious way he had connected with me, where I had walked with him. In that place of meeting and communicating and interacting, I knew him, loved him, and served him, right up to the leading edge of my capacity at that time.
I’m so grateful for every step of the journey to connect with him, every desert I wandered in, every death to my self-protection and rebellion, every knothole he’s pulled me through. I was numb to him when I walked away from Christianity at the age of 20, I respected and obeyed him when I was 30 and he spoke the truth that brought me back, I finally connected with him at the heart 12 years later at a Vineyard conference, and I’ve cried buckets in Immanuel sessions as he filled my father hunger and told me that ‘I’m his only Margaret.’
But apparently my knowing him was due for an upgrade. Now like Isaiah, in my own small way, ‘my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ in a way I never have before. He has shaken that veil of familiarity that went all the way back to the church nursery. It happened while I was reading a book about quantum physics (I’m too old to have studied it in school!), and his bigness hit me in such a powerful way that I collapsed in a pile of ‘Woe is me! For I am undone.’ It felt like I lost the patch of familiar ground I’d been standing on, the place of meeting where I had previously known him.
Now I’m having trouble putting the bigness and the intimacy together. I’m not sure why. Maybe in order to experience the intimacy, I had to see him as the Sunday School, flannel graph God. But when I saw him afresh in his immensity, I lost my footing. I feel brand new awe and reverence for him, but at those times, I can’t fathom how he could be mindful of me. When I practice Immanuel, I can experience him as intimate and loving, but I can’t hold onto the immensity of the Creator at the same time. It’s very uncomfortable.
Right now I’m somewhere in the middle of this knothole. I’m not at the scary beginning, but not at the end where the new thing is formed in me and I’m standing on new ground with him. Fortunately, by his grace and mercy, there’s no condemnation in it (Romans 8:1). And through the years of knotholes, I’ve come to trust him in this process of formation. Halfway through means that I have no idea where this transition is leading, which also means that later, when I’m in the season of reaping, I won’t have a sense of ownership over the harvest that results.
I’ve fallen in love with this way of life, the adventure of discipleship, the never-ending process of going further up and further in. And once again, in reading Oswald Chambers, I found him describing what I’ve experienced: “God is not working toward a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God” (July 28th, My Utmost for His Highest).
- Margaret M. Webb