November 6, 2013

In the temple

There are tiny tastes of heaven here on earth.

These tastes stir up a longing for much more than this world can offer. C.S. Lewis said, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." This is a clear call to heaven. I don't even need to bring up my faith here to get the point across - it's why we climb mountains and love babies and visit museums and murmur "yummm" after a full mouth of delicious food. It's what pushes us forward into the next thing, and then the next, and so on; we're always searching for more.

Of course, these experiences vary greatly as the measure is subjective but you know this feeling, don't you? You've encountered some event, person, or thing that leaves you with an unfulfilled feeling deep down in your gut. And they're not always good, these things. Sometimes, it's the fierce hope for an end to the madness of sorrow. Cancer sucks. Sex-trafficking (should) make us groan for an end. Addiction stirs the belly up into chaos and the never-ending "more". Death sweeps in and turns up so much, "But why?"

Standing to sing in the church service one night, I felt the need for this other world. The days are flying by lately, all for fantastically wonderful reasons; nevertheless, I was tired. My physical and mental limits became apparent as we sang because my mind, body, and heart were just not in it. I don't like this feeling and didn't wait long to ask the One who sings over me to give me words to sing back. Almost instantly, I could hear, "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple." Isaiah 6 is a longtime favorite of mine and an awe-inspiring scene.

The first time I heard a friend express her hunger for heaven, I didn't get it. "Wait, you want to die? Now?" It was foreign to me as a baby in the faith. Here in the recounting of Isaiah's vision and commission, though, the awful glory of the Lord is on display before the prophet. This weight of glory and thoughts of the eternal display of God's glory in heaven woke me up. All of a sudden, I knew what my friend hungered for.

While the music played and people sang along, I pulled out my bible and read the Isaiah account. Before I see the words, I know what is coming next. Isaiah proclaims, "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 didn't mince words; he knew his state well and felt the weight of God's glory before him, spread wide with the robe and the hosts of heaven shouting praises in heaven. I read through Isaiah's confession of unworthiness, the angels' "Holy Holy Holy!", the burning coals to lips, and land exactly where I need to be...

"And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7)

This is incredible. God did not leave Isaiah (or us now) crying, "Woe is me! I am a child of unclean lips...for my eyes have seen the King...!" The angels touch the burning coal - the purifying agent - to Isaiah's lips and his guilt is gone; his sin atoned for.

Isaiah's humility and God's gracious atonement moved deep within me that night. I tasted the smoke in the air while standing there and once again, my "Woe is me!" turns to "Here I am! Send me." No longer was I stiff and unbending during the worship happening around me; instead, I saw the room full of His robe and felt the flutter of air from angels' wings as I joined in with, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" I longed for heaven afresh!

My hope is to always have Isaiah's temple experience in my mind as I face sorrows and joys too great to handle. God equipped Isaiah to do a great, difficult thing in his time and it's beneficial to see ourselves in a similar place. We can choose to let our earthly need for more terminate on ourselves; or, we can recall the removed guilt and atoned sin as we raise up our hands or lay on our faces and cry, "Here I am! Send me."


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