I was praying this morning about ministry stuff — what is my role? what I am called to do? what am I not called to do? what am I unwilling to let go of? what am I not willing to pick up? — and was getting so frustrated with the lack of clarity I’ve had in this specific issue. It feels almost as though there is an actual wall I am up against, something physically keeping me from seeing clearly at this time.
I was led to read the account of Isaiah in the sixth chapter of his book. I read through the part that I am familiar with rather quickly (“Woe is me! I am undone”), assuming that the notion I had experienced to get me to this chapter was just a fleeting impulse. But the part that comes after those first few familiar verses started to strike some chords deep down, in a way that only the conviction in the Scriptures can do.
He talks about hearing, but not understanding — seeing, but not perceiving … Having dull hearts, heavy ears, eyes shut … Cities laid waste and desolate, people removed from the land, with many forsaken places in its midst…
And then, God tells Isaiah that only a tenth of the people will remain, will return to be healed; kind of like the stump of a tree that is left after it’s dead part is cut down. “So the holy seed,” He says, “shall be its stump.”
For us, that holy seed and stump is, of course, Jesus, and it makes me laugh to think of how close in proximity I have been to this very same message in Philippians 3 — “count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” I have just spent three weeks reading through the book of Philippians myself, and attended a conference last week where the highlighted passage was, by no coincidence I’m sure, Philippians 3. Paul basically says, “cut down the tree of your life and let the holy stump of Jesus remain.” (My own words).
I think that God is asking me to let Him destroy 90% of my existence, to count 90% as loss. I would never have come up with that number myself — but there was something so striking to me about how he only reserved a tenth of the people for Himself in the verses from Isaiah. He only left 10% remnant — and that 10% became 100% of the population. And I wonder what this really looks like in my life?
It feels scary to me to even consider letting God knock down my “cities” (as is described in Isaiah) — these big towers in my life that I have built, invested in heavily over a long period of time: my homemaking skills, my mothering approach, my goals and hopes and aspirations (and my secret desire to be a world-renown blogger), my good deeds, my strengths and weaknesses and how I’ve oriented my life around accentuating the former and minimizing the latter, my commitments in women’s, children’s, and worship ministries at my church; even my knowledge and what I have deemed understanding at times has grown into something bigger than expected or intended, something of which I find difficulty in letting go. There are so many hiding idols among these things; idols bearing, and giving birth, to more idols.
My 3 year old loves TV, and the reason I know this is because of how he reacts when I turn it off. It doesn’t matter for how long he watches; every time the TV gets turned off, there is a battle. That, to me, is proof enough of an issue. No matter how much he is able to indulge, when it’s time to let it go, he cannot.
And what of this battle in me? I am finding that the nearer I come to accepting that God wants me to lay down certain things, walk away from other things, surrender all things, give up on 90% of what I have going for me, the more resistance I feel. “But maybe I can just keep doing that one thing” or “surely, this one habit is a good thing and God wants me to continue in it.” But maybe He doesn’t. Maybe he doesn’t even want me to do the good things. Bringing back only ten percent of the people really isn’t much. I think we can wrap our minds around a percentage like that, but we can’t really imagine what it would look like, especially when we are talking about death: nine out of every ten people written off as dead, “removed,” not counted as alive anymore; nine bodies lying on the ground, compared to one meager, scared soul standing, trembling. Nine out of every ten things in my life, discounted, demolished, removed …
And this 10%, of course, is the amount God has Scripturally used as the amount set apart for Himself, a tithe. He required it be offered first, the cream of the crop; what we have to offer is usually leftovers. He doesn’t want me just to peel back the things I already don’t like about myself and offer what’s left; He wants me to raise up one tenth of my heart and mind and soul in faith, and let the rest of it die.
So, I’m not really sure what to make of all this — and I sure as heck am not sure why I just posted it on the internet; I suppose it is here more as a reminder for me and for accountability’s sake than anything else.
Nevertheless, I stand blankly before this revelation. Am I living this life backwards? Am I willing to count all that I have going for me as utter loss, even garbage, in comparison to knowing Jesus?