I remember years ago, sitting in a therapist’s office, feeling broken, ashamed, and discouraged when I was asked this question, “Is it ok for Susie to get a C-? Is it ok for you to be a mere mortal like everyone else?” It was the right question at the right time. Oh, the power of the right question, posed in love, from a safe space, at the right time! That question really did shift something in me. It was a turning point inside. Sometimes it is hard to explain or put language to moments like this. It was like repentance. It was like making amends with my own heart and with God. It was like penance.
There really is just one single qualification for people to experience God. Jesus only calls sinners. Good people are out of luck. Perfect people are out of luck. Posturing, posing people are out of luck. God will not meet us in our false selves. God does not even recognize that self. We do not come to God by doing it right, we come to God by doing it wrong. The only qualification is our sin, our shame, our need. When we bring the truth of who we are to God, there is more than enough mercy, grace, and forgiveness every single time. The only thing standing in the way is usually my willingness to lay down my false self with all its performing and posing and posturing.
Isaiah was a prophet, and he was granted a magnificent vision of God. Yet Isaiah feels disqualified; he is broken, he does not feel worthy. Then an angel takes a hot coal from a fire and touches it to Isaiah’s lips. After that moment of confession, repentance, and the hot coal of healing, we read this, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Only after Isaiah admits his sin, receives the touch of fire, can he experience this call.
It has always been this way. God only works through sinners. Jesus only calls sinners. Sin — your sin — is the gateway to God. Shame — your shame — is the front door to mercy and the welcome of the Father. The moment we turn towards God, God runs towards us.
May we be ever more eager to admit our sin and shame so that we might have more and more of God’s mercy and grace made manifest in our lives.