How far will we fall?
O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear?
Isaiah 63. 17
Focusing on Isaiah during Advent is not a lot of fun. We are constantly reminded of how far
"we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.We have offended against thy holy laws.We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;and we have done those things which we ought not to have done;and there is no health in us."
So often we really are not very different from the people of the Old Testament. Look at the Middle East this very day. One difference however that I might point out is that we have evolved in the fullness of time to understand that it is not God who makes us stray, but we ourselves as we fall to temptation to be better, bigger, stronger, happier, richer and mightier.
In a beautiful Advent class yesterday, we discussed the Advent journey of watching for the coming of Christ, for the presence of God among us, for the Light for which we are all searching. I suggest we define what the presence of God looks like for ourselves so we know what we are looking for. I, for one, might have been looking in all the wrong places, free falling as I go, missing God right under my very nose. Here's a story to give you an example.
A few weeks ago, I had five grandchildren ages 8 to 3 in church at the same time. We sat on the back row so as not to bother anyone, which really didn't make any difference because we bothered everyone in front of us, the whole church! The children were restless, bored, picking at each other and busy just being children. William age 7 discovered a card in the pew and read on it that you could write a prayer on the card and someone would call you about your prayer. So unbeknownst to me, he filled it out, put his phone number (dad's) down on the card and asked me who he could give it to. As the matriarch of the brood, I was so rattled by all the noise, I said we'd take care of it later. But at the end of the service, he still held on to it and asked where to put it. We handed it to an usher and he explained what it was about, and I didn't think about it again. At staff meeting this week, there was a conversation about the cards in the pews and who responded to them, and I brought up the story about William. Marsha, the president of the Daughters of the King, said she had not received the card, so I asked if she would possibly call William to ask about his prayer? And she said yes. Fast Forward to Tuesday as I am driving the same five children home from school, Marsha called. and on the speaker phone with William sitting in the far back and the other children stunned into silence, William told Marsha what his prayer was.
"I wanted you to pray for my friend Ezra because the kids at school don't respect him and they won't throw the football to him." Marsha graciously offered to send the prayer out to the Daughters that very afternoon, and William said thank you.
Right there in that messy car, with hands sticky from ice cream and playground dust, God came to be one of us! And when I was challenged to give an example of God among us yesterday in the Advent class, I realized that my fall had been stopped, my "following too much the devices and desires of my own heart," and the rest of Advent could be spent reclaiming the Light, looking right under my nose instead of up and out. There I would see that glorious impossible presence of God.