I recall driving from Washington to Arizona one summer with a friend listening to this CD, Shine Like the Sun by the group, Spiro & Furlan. I loved one particular song on the album about Isaiah 6, because it spoke both of the holiness & grace of God. What also seems fitting is that many years later I would be singing with the Furlan part of the band (Carlo became our worship pastor). Back to the point, I’ve been reflecting of late on these two words, which are adequately portrayed in chapter six of Isaiah.
In the Message translation the prophet Isaiah cried,
“Doom! It’s Doomsday! I’m as good as dead! Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted— blasphemous even! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate. And here I’ve looked God in the face! The King! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!”
Holiness. In the Lenten season our weather captured the essence of Spring & post-Easter. And now, in our celebratory state of pronouncing a resurrected Lord, our weather echoes the cries of the lonely walk to Golgotha. It’s mysterious and altogether frightening to think the 40 mile per hour wind is nothing to standing at the feet of God.
Forgiveness. I knew there were obstacles lying in my path towards holiness, or wholeness before God. One night after the girls went to bed, Ben and I were cleaning up the kitchen and I began speaking of people whom I still harbored an unforgiving heart towards. I spoke of a person in authority in my days of youth who showed favoritism & walked unjustly towards some, while exalting others within the church. I spoke of a person who really was quite an evil individual and I didn’t know if I could ever love him. And then I spoke of a wounded, scarred friendship. How my heart ached over the injustice of all three. Ben in his gentle & compassionate wisdom reminded me of the parable of the unmerciful servant. How the King forgave him his HUGE debt, while in return he wouldn’t forgive his servant of the little debt owed. Then, Ben asked, how will you stand before God knowing he forgave your HUGE debt, while you don’t forgive these people of their little debts.
Intertwine. I knew my inability to forgive these debts was inhibiting me to walk the journey of grace & holiness. Just like Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” As a justice seeker, my heart was wanting it’s just reward. All the while, my heart was far from being made holy. I lacked eyes to see what Isaiah was seeing (and what I will see someday). It’s what makes the Chronicles of Narnia so wonderful & beautiful. As the children are sitting with Mr. & Mrs. Beaver listening to who this Aslan character really is, one of them asks if he’s “safe,” seeing as he’s a lion. The response:
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
And that’s God. He’s not safe in the comforting way when we only see him handing out grace, because he’s also holy. Just like Aslan the Lion. The children didn’t just run and jump on him. They feared him for his great power & strength. But….
“Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out.”
And then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!”
Grace. And then there was grace. Isaiah sees his sin and sees the holiness of God. Lucy, the iconic contemplative Mary figure, sees how little she is in comparison to Aslan’s “terrible, untamed” being, but he welcomes her to stroke his mane & ride on his back. And Isaiah is made clean through the overarching grace God extends. What I found is when I came before God knowing how little I am in comparison, he has welcomed me into his arms of grace making me clean. I’ve also found in this journey that when I’m faced with a huge proverbial Evergreen tree laying in my path, I cannot keep on going in the journey. I try and try different methods to maneuver it; yet, it’s still there.
It’s been in this season of Lent that I’ve seen how when we remove grace from holiness, we merely follow rules & become pharisaic in our heart. And when we remove holiness from grace, we cheapen the cost of the Cross & make ourselves bigger than we actually are. Thus, both inhibit us from loving with reckless abandon. It’s not safe, but it’s so very good.