For Father's Day I bought Ben Bono's book "On The Move". It's a tiny little book with breathtaking photos and a powerful message. The book is simply the text of a speech he gave at the White House a few years back at the National Prayer Breakfast. I find it uncanny and more than a bit unsettling that the Church has to hear the following words from a rock star (granted, an AMAZING rock star):
"God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."
He then goes on to quote a few verses from Isaiah 58: 9-11..."If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."
What immediately captured my attention was in verse 9 - "If you SPEND yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, THEN your light will rise in the darkness."
Wow. I don't think it could be any clearer. I don't believe that by using the word "spend" God is asking me to simply just write a check each month to help someone in need. I don't think He's asking me to volunteer at the soup kitchen around Christmas time. I don't think He means to drop my quarters in the homeless man's cup. I think He means write a check until it costs me something. I think He means I have a standing date on my weekly calendar that I volunteer at the soup kitchen. I think He means I empty my entire wallet into the homeless man's cup.
I know... crazy talk, right? But...
"Spend" in this case means to empty. "If I EMPTY myself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed...". God is asking me to spend myself on the hungry and the oppressed. I know for each of us this looks different. But the theme is the same - giving of myself and my resources to help the hungry and the oppressed. God has always called us to sacrifice. Always. Not once has He asked us to consider ourselves. How have I gone so wrong that I almost always consider myself before anyone else?? This message or call to sacrificial living is one that I know I have compartmentalized in my own head. For many years now I have determined what sacrificing means for me, but I think God has had other ideas all along.
I'm finally ready and willing to be honest and listen to what HE has to say about what sacrifice in my life looks like. I'm ready to get the heck out of the way.
The beautiful part of this scripture in Isaiah is that when we spend ourselves...THEN our light shines in the darkness - THEN we are like a well-watered garden. Our light doesn't shine when we play it safe and hoard our resources, our energy and our time. It shines when we spend and empty ourselves on behalf of the hungry and oppressed. So, here I am. Begging to fully embrace spending myself on behalf of people who are in need. Begging for my light to shine in the darkness.