Last night I had both the honor and privilege to speak to a group of women from my home church about Rapha House. I was first approached by the coordinator of this event about two (or three?) months ago and was asked to speak about the trip I took to Cambodia back in August. I said absolutely, and so for the last two (or three!) months I’ve gone back and forth between excited and nervous, sometimes going between the two in a matter of minutes. (I was pretty bipolar about the whole thing yesterday in the hours leading up to the speaking part.)
But I did it. More like, God did it.
Around noon I started to heavily freak out about whether or not I had organized my speech well, if I had chosen the right stories to share, or if I was even going to show up at all (don’t worry – I’d never cancel something like this). The drive from Kissimmee to Oviedo was just long enough for me to pray repeatedly for God to make this night His and to use me as a mouthpiece for what He wanted to tell His people. He surely did show up and show off. The night was wonderful – there was prayer and really wonderful women leading us in some worship, and then there was God. God was really in the room, and I am so thankful that I was able to be a small part of it.
As I spoke, I sort of followed everything that I had practiced. Which is great, because I was comfortable with that. I was comfortable in what I knew. I was uncomfortable holding a microphone in my hand, and I let people know that. I was originally not going to mention my nerves – because what kind of good speaker does that? But I allowed myself to be real with these women for a just a quick moment, because one of the ladies leading worship shared her discomfort playing the guitar. It’s not something that is natural or comfortable for her to do, but there she was up on stage leading us with a guitar and her beautiful voice. Into the throne room we were ushered – she, and the two other women leading us, did a wonderful job. So moved by her vulnerability, I decided to share my discomfort with everyone, also. By doing this, I was able to relax — the pressure was off, because everyone knew I was a little nervous anyways. That was a beautiful, wonderful thing.
As I spoke I shared a passage from Isaiah with these women. There’s so much in Isaiah that I could have shared, but this particular passage stuck out to me as I was preparing this past week. It comes from chapter 58 and reads like this:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
I think the reason this particular passage struck such a chord with me is because of that last line in verse seven, “and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” I have to remind myself that all the people in this world descended from the two created in the garden. I have to remind myself that, though we are completely different from one another in so many ways, we have that common denominator that links us together in such an intimate way. This commonality between us is what makes my heart skip a beat when I see a homeless man on the corner. This link is what makes me breathe in deep when I hold the hand of a precious baby, still smelling like heaven after being in the world for just a few hours. This is what makes me tear up when I think of the girls at Rapha House — not that they were trafficked, though that does wrench my heart in a most painful way, but that they are my sisters from long ago and how could I not become emotional when I remember their sweet faces?
No man is an island unto himself, right?
The very thought that I could turn away from my brothers and sisters for my own selfish desires disgusts me. The fact that I do it nearly every day in some form or another angers me — how could I be so selfish? how could I be so unconcerned with the hearts struggling to beat around me?
And then I think of the next chapter of Isaiah – the sin, the confession, and the redemption.
For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, and honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drive along.
I realize that the connection between my selfishness and turning my back on my brothers and sisters sometimes and this passage from Isaiah may be a bit stretched. But stick with me.
It was the selfishness of the people that caused the Lord to suit up for battle. It was because of the people turning their back on the injustices that the Lord stretched out his arm.
It is my selfishness that causes the Lord to fight for us. And it is this great love for His people, this great love for me, that I am moved to action. Because I cannot sit back and ignore the labored breathing and struggling hearts beating around me. I am moved by this love because this Love could not sit back and watch my heart struggle to keep me alive, so this Love suited up and fought to bring my heart to life.
Because I am alive, I must fight also. Because of this great Love, because I am alive, I must remember to put my selfishness, my insecurities, my doubts, my confusion, my frustrations, my pains, my arrogance aside and instead invest my time and love and restored heart of flesh not only into the brothers and sisters who immediately surround me, but into the ones living in the farthest corners of the earth and the darkest rooms in the brothels.
The rest of that section of Isaiah 58 reads like this:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“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.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will rise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.