I am of the “Don’t waste your life!” generation, a generation of young people in the church who believed their greatest call was to not settle for mediocrity in their Christian life.
I will never forget going to a young adult conference in my early 20s where we heard Isaiah 6 preached with such a fervor that even if we were saved already, we got saved again. Passion was the proof of salvation, zeal was the evidence of our faith, “Send me!” was our mantra, and “world changers” was our identity. We all wanted to be used by God, but none of us wanted to fold up the chairs afterward.
By the time I reached my late 20s, I was so worn out from trying so darn hard to be used by God that I felt, literally, used by God. Used up by him, so emptied out by him that I had nothing left to give anyone, including my own self. I beat my fists against my steering wheel, shouting expletives at him on my drive to work at a church. I sobbed on my bedroom floor at night and showed up to serve at our college ministry. I penciled question after question to him in my notebooks and then pretended to have the answers at Bible studies. I was the definition of the whitewashed tombs Jesus spoke about in Matthew 23:27: pretending to be clean on the outside but rotting to death on the inside.
We love the “Here am I. Send me!” part of Isaiah 6 (v. 8). We even love the vision of the throne room, the cherubim and seraphim flying back and forth, eternally singing the praises of the Holy One. Of course we want to serve the Lord God Almighty. Of course we want to be sent out by him. Of course we wouldn’t dare say anything else in the sight of that holiness.
Except Isaiah does. And if we miss what Isaiah says before he answers the Lord’s question, then we miss everything. He stands before glory and becomes undone. “Woe to me! … I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (v. 5).
When we come to the end of ourselves, we begin to see that a faith built upon our skills, gifts, charisma, or good deeds for God is a house of cards. Otherwise, I just don’t know how we can have the “Send me!” moment. Not really. Not sustainably.
Somewhere along the way, we’re going to come smacking against a wall in our faith where our questions and doubts are insurmountable because the work we do stops seeming so grand or rewarding.
That’s when we see that the glory we were trying to capture was mostly for ourselves. And we discover that serving the Lord is more like carrying a cross than standing on a stage.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert, A Curious Faith, Brazos, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2022. Used by permission of the publisher. www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.
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