And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips -Isaiah 6:5
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ - Luke 5:8
I had a friend when I was in elementary school who was enviably cute, petite, fashionable and popular. Whenever I stood next to her, I felt like a wooly mammoth or something. I remember that very uncomfortable feeling - in comparison to her adorable self - of being awkward, hulking, unpolished and, well, less. This did not feel good. Her bright light made me feel like I wanted to skulk off into the shadows.
But this experience helps me relate to why both Isaiah and Peter, who when they come into the presence of the great “I AM,” think first of what they are NOT. Granted, the light that shone on them was infinitely brighter than the light that came off of my little friend’s trendy white go-go boots, but I can relate to that feeling of being less than what is called for. When a bright spotlight is turned on you, you can’t escape seeing both your real and perceived shortcomings, and that does not feel very good.
But when Isaiah fell on his face in repentance for being unclean, God did not un-invite him, saying, “Oh, you’re right Isaiah - you’re not up to the task.” Nor does Jesus tell Peter to go back to his fishing boat and say, “Thanks, Peter, you’re right -you’re not what I really need. I’ll just move on to find a more suitable disciple.” The truth is, we are all people of unclean lips. We are all sinners. If God was looking for a perfect person to call, God would still be looking. Instead, God assures them that they will be fine, that God will be with them every step of the way, and that this is no mistake - God wants them to come along on the journey.
God can use us just as we are to be messengers of God’s love and light in this world every day, even when we feel like we are more shadow than light. God never leaves us to face our challenges alone, and supports us every step of the way. So just like Isaiah and Peter, we’re called to move forward in trust, even when we don’t have any idea how things are going to end up or even quite what we’re supposed to do or exactly how we’re supposed to be able to do it. Go talk to kings? Fish for people? How am I supposed to do that? Only God knows.
While we busy ourselves with worrying about how much less we are than we think we need to be, God is busy giving us everything we need to answer God’s call, no matter how hard that is to believe.