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I Can't

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. 2 Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. 3 They shouted to each other, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces! All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”

4 The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke.

5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”

6 Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”

8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”

I said, “I’m here; send me.”

This is the passage which launched a thousand songs. From Handel, to Bach, to Hillsong, to Chris Tomlin, to Frannie Bruce, if a songwriter needed inspiration they turned to this piece. And of course they did. It’s literally awesome. If I saw winged cherubim flying around the robe of God then touched a coal to lips shouting HOLY HOLY HOLY, awed is the least of what I would be feeling. Terrified. Amazed. Dumbstruck. Speechless.

And probably, unlittle unworthy. A little guilty. Why should I be the one to see such awe and amazement? Who am I that God should appear, should literally just lift me up into heaven. Little ole me? The girl from the backwoods of West Virginia? Surely, there should be someone else more qualified, more dignified, more something?

Isaiah feels vulnerable, afraid, and unable. Isaiah knows he is a person born into sin, who bears the weight of generations who’ve gone before him. He’s not responsible for their actions, their decisions, the ignorance of his ancestors. But he does carry the weight, the responsibilities, the staining of those sin-filled people. Isaiah sees God and the first reaction is to feel inadequate.

Like Moses. Like Abraham. Like Miriam and Sarah. Like Jeremiah. An encounter with God leaves us feeling small, unmoored, uncertain.

And so we lash out. Or we give up. We hear the voice inside of our heads which says, I can’t. I can’t do what God is asking me to do. It’s easier to give up, to be a afraid, it feels more right, more justified to say no, I can’t because I’m too small, too powerless.

When we feel unworthy. When we feel like we can’t live up to the expectations others have for us, we panic. We become afraid.

No, you can’t live up to God. You can’t live up to whatever impossible standards you hold for yourself. No, you are not worthy of the calling God has placed on your life. You will fall short.

And that’s ok. God doesn’t expect you to fly around with wings like eagles and touch burning coals to people’s mouths. God has people for that job. God just expects you to be you. And maybe that means you don’t live up to the expectations you’ve placed on yourself or that other people have placed on you.

No. I can’t be the impossible. But I can say yes to my dependence upon God’s strength and guidance. How can being awareness of our not enough-ness leads us to a more complete, more peaceful life?

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