I make my living by teaching. In fact, I speak and teach at conferences, classes, and events all over the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Yet every time I am about to go up on stage, I am nervous. It is always a risk to put myself out there, be vulnerable, and believe in my abilities. I want to do a good job for the people who hired me. Even more, though, I want to bring education, inspiration, and healing to the people who hear me. I am aware that every person there is carrying grief, pain, and troubles, and I want to be an instrument of Christ to each one. I feel the weight of my role, knowing that although I often function in the secular world of business and finance, I have been sent by God, and I want to use what God has given me to serve these people.
So I always take time to pray. Even as I am introduced and walk to the podium, I breathe in the Spirit and breathe out my ego. I breathe in Christ and breathe out my nervousness. I breathe in love, and breathe it back out again. I ask to see this audience through God’s eyes and to be an instrument of healing and peace. It is not about me. It is about being a conduit for God, a way to return the undeserved love God pours out on me by pouring it out for others.
Isaiah talks about the same dynamic. In the presence of God’s majesty, he is struck by how small and unworthy he is, and he shrinks back. The task seems to be beyond him. But the angel of the Lord touches his lips and proclaims him worthy. Then he hears God asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah finds the courage to respond, “Here I am. Send me.”
Interestingly, when I hear this scripture read in church, Isaiah’s answer is usually proclaimed as full-throated and confident, eager to take on the task. Based on my experience, however, I don’t see it that way. I imagine Isaiah hesitating and looking around him to see if anyone else is going to step up to the plate. But no one does. He tries to ignore the tug on his own heart, but can’t. When he speaks, it is with fear and trembling, humility and awe, as he realizes the weight of responsibility that comes with being sent in God’s name. Then, though tentative at first, he grows into his role as prophet, allowing God’s love to fill his heart, and freely loving and serving God in return.
Although my time on public stages and Isaiah’s very public role as prophet may seem out of the sphere of daily life to most people, I firmly believe that all of us are chosen and called in the same way. The angel has symbolically touched all of our lips, endowed us with abilities and talents, and God is waiting for us to answer. Yet thousands of years later, that obstacle – the fear of not being capable or worthy or perfect enough for the job – is still actively operating. Try asking someone to serve on the pastoral council, or in any of the myriad roles of service in our parishes, schools, and communities. How many excuses do you hear? “I’m not good enough. Other people are better suited than I am. I don’t have sufficient experience.” And on it goes. They turn away.
What about you? Where is the tug on your heart? Will you turn away, or in what ways can God send you? For instance, do you have the gifts to speak? Can you serve as a lector or can you go beyond the parish to get involved in the community to speak out for those without a voice? What about a role providing spiritual food as a minister of communion, or food for hungry bodies in a soup kitchen or non-profit? Can you offer the gift of consoling presence, working through the parish or with other organizations to sit with those who are sick, or comfort those who grieve? Maybe your gift is to lead the assembly in sung prayer, or to use song to lighten the hearts of friends and family as well as those in nursing homes, rehab units, or hospitals. There are so many ways to serve, so many ways to make a difference in other people’s lives.
God has gifted you and declared you worthy, and is calling for someone to send, for fishers to cast out their nets, for disciples to bring the good news to the world. How will you answer?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.