I have been running on fumes lately. The beginning of our summer felt like a gentle crawl; however, by the beginning of August, our pace was more sprint than stroll. School supplies to buy, well checks to be scheduled, sports games to attend. In addition to the normal hustle, God has birthed an infant church under our care. This means support to raise, insurance plans to shift, and souls to shepherd. In the midst of many necessary and good things, I tend to lose sight of the best thing: time spent in the presence of the Father.
I know I am not alone. I have friends whose faith is running on fumes as they continue to wade through difficult diagnoses. I have friends who feel like bruised reeds, barely standing after a series of storms. I have friends who have walked with Jesus brightly for decades who feel like dimly burning lanterns after the events of the past year.
A languid lot of lamps we are.
Thinking of them and of my own barely-puttering heart, I sat down yesterday for desperately needed time alone with the Lord. I have been slowly meandering through Isaiah 41 and 42 for the past few weeks. And, in God’s merciful timing, the Spirit led me to pick up where I left off in Isaiah 42.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him…A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law (Isaiah 42:1 & 3-4).
Isaiah sets up a juxtaposition between God’s people (bruised and dimly burning) and their God who won’t be bruised or dimmed until he brings forth justice for his sin-struggling people. In fact, he ties verses 3 and 4 together by using the same Hebrews words: ratsats which means crushed, oppressed, or struggling and keheh which means dim, dull, discouraged, or faint.
Yesterday, this juxtaposition of our nature to His was just what I needed to be buoyed. I cannot tend to bruised reeds alone, as I myself am a bruised reed. I cannot fan dim lights into flame, as myself am a charred, barely burning wick. But He can. In fact, He already has.
Isaiah said the coming Servant would’t be bruised until he established justice; yet to establish justice for us bruised reeds and dimmed wicks, he let himself be beyond bruised. He chose to be broken on the Cross to buttress His lot of bruised reeds.
He, the light of the world, and the sun He created were snuffed out so we could be fanned into flames that might light this dark world. He who has gone to these lengths for us will naturally continue to care for his languid lot of lamps. He will provide the fresh oil of the Holy Spirit; He Himself will breath fresh air over our souls to coax tiny sparks into flames. He Himself will trim our charred wicks with his scarred hands. He is a gentle light keeper. For no one cares more that the dark corners be lit than He who is its true light.
What a languid lot we are,
What barely burning wicks
Who could fan these flames,
Our feebleness could fix?
If we are to light the world,
We’ll need fresh oil and air.
We’ll need a tender keeper,
Our charred parts to pare.
Such a keeper we have
In the Father of all light.
He tends His little lamps,
He’s patient with our plight.