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“Send me, God. If you can, use me.”

September 2001 was the beginning of another church calendar year, school year, car pool schedule, fall sports, children’s church, new member lunches and the revolving door of people who came through our home. We were heading into the fourth year of our church plant drawing a unique group of skeptics, de-churched and addicts. Visiting families didn’t usually come back. Our struggling children’s ministry experienced more kids leaving then joining.

And I? I was the frantic wife behind the scenes trying to balance too many roles, the worried mom wondering how all this was going to impact our family. During sleepless nights I often woke my husband with concerns about one of our children.

In the following years every attempt at a youth ministry eventually dissolved leaving our kids disillusioned that our church might hold something for them. One day our youngest confused the stories of Abraham and Noah. Our son looked at me in shock, “Mom, have you and Dad even read the bible to her?!” For a few bewildered moments, I couldn’t remember if we had.

On 9/11 we were horrified and numbed as we watched with the rest of the world, the events that transpired. The subsequent months were a blur as I tried to keep my own world from crumbling. Fall 2001 was bleak and I had little imagination for how God could possibly work with the broken world I daily encountered.

September 2011 in our new home city of Manhattan, we listened to stories of the many lives impacted by 9/11. We rode bikes down to ground zero. Talking with our son he recounted how those events impacted him as a thirteen year old and his subsequent pursuit of a military career. With few exceptions it wasn’t the fears that had kept me awake ten years earlier that had impacted him so deeply.

The prophet Isaiah also encountered a desolate period in his nation’s history. The good times were over. The dream of a perfect nation was gone. In that empty, barren period he encounters a God who is wholly other. And the very thing Isaiah longs for; perfection, justice, beauty, undoes him. For in seeing God, Isaiah comes face to face with himself, with who he really is. We know his response, “I’m ruined, I’m a man of unclean lips and I live with a people of unclean lips.”

Like Isaiah, God has placed eternity in our hearts, a desire to look beyond the walls of this crumbling world and dream of a world, a church, a community, a home that is perfect. But we can never get to that perfect world until we first know who we are. If we’re allergic to the idea of sin, we won’t really see holiness. It was G.K. Chesterton who responded to the question, “What’s wrong with this world?” by answering, “I am.” Many of us, at least those who read this blog, truly grasp that concept. What’s wrong with our parenting, our marriages, our nation? “I am the problem” we readily respond. But are we daily encountering the answer? We know what Isaiah saw in his vision because it’s spoken of in John 12:41. He saw Jesus’ glory. He saw Jesus next to the alter. And a few chapters later in John we see this same glory is not next to the alter but on it. The holiness of God laid down for us. As Isaiah is cleansed and made holy (just as are we) it sets him and us apart. This encounter is crystal clear. It is nothing of Isaiah’s doing! It is nothing of our doing that makes us holy, so much so, that our response is one of utter humility; “Send me, God. If you can, use me.”