Call Me Isaac...
Something was wrong with Isaac. Look at his father and you see a giant of the faith. Abraham had his faults -- serious ones -- but his faith is what we remember. Look at Isaac's son and you see a rascal, but we remember Jacob for working an extra seven years for Rachel, for being the father of the sons whose names would mark the tribes, and for a life that made his name into a synonym for Israel.
What happened to Isaac? I wonder if it wasn't that long trip up Mount Moriah and the aborted sacrifice at the top. There are a lot of wonderful spiritual lessons to be learned from that event, but I wonder about its long term effect on Isaac. Isaac seemed to keep God at arm's length throughout his life. He didn't write long psalms of praise. He believed in God and followed Him, but at a distance.
Call me Isaac. I wish that wasn't my name. A childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in a rigid, cold church might be the reason. Maybe its just my DNA.
I am in awe of many of the bloggers I read each week. They think about God all the time, write about Him, discuss six, seven, or twenty of the latest books on evangelism, theology, church issues, or spiritual growth. They have lives centered around their congregation and the greater church. Their cars rattle with CD cases emblazoned with the names of dozens of Christian music superstars. They go to seminars... and take notes.
Confession time: one of the reasons I am a preacher is because of gratitude... but there is another reason. While I am thrilled that God didn't leave me in a ditch by the side of the road (which would have been His right and no one would have blamed him,least of all me), one of the reasons I work in a church setting is so that I'll show up on Sunday. You read that right: I am not sure I would attend if I didn't have to. Church is hard for me. Interaction with God's people is good for me and I know my soul needs it... but it has never felt natural. I don't get excited about church events and I struggle to fit in.
Church or college lectureships? I almost never go. When I do attend I am surrounded by people with notebooks, bags of the latest books and CDs, going from group to group to talk about speakers, subjects, church issues, etc. That world is as strange to me as the world of a Tibetan monk. I recently read a series of blogs and articles admonishing church people to ease a little out of their shells and the substitute culture of the religious. I couldn't relate. I don't listen to Christian music (don't send me stuff. I've tried it). I read two to three books a week -- mainly a mixture of history, politics, sociology, mysteries and thrillers. I make myself read ten to twenty religious books a year but it is a struggle. I keep asking my id "are we there yet?"
Don't get me wrong: I love my Lord. I will follow Him anywhere. But I can't feel at home in preacher-culture, church-culture, and if you drop me into a religious bookstore I don't know what to look for. Put me around an atheist, a homeless guy, or a confused student and I know what to do. And I do it. But tomorrow, around the metaphorical water cooler in the church office, while the other ministers may be discussing this or that hot religious author, or some leadership conference they attended, or the cool new song by whatever-their-name is... I'll be quiet, smile every now and then, and move along.
I am Isaac. For some reason I cannot draw that close to the things that matter to everyone else. I admire those people. I envy them. And I will never be one of them. While others are at Tulsa (and God bless them and the workshop) I will be speaking to two small churches, one in Ohio and one in Virginia. During the day I will be reading quietly, walking around, calling to check on my wife, son, daughter -- my family. I WON'T be hanging out with the brethren or doing all that other preacher stuff. I've tried to...but it comes off as fake to everyone around me, because it is.
All of this, perversely, makes me love Jesus even more. If He will let someone like me, who cannot draw closer, work for him, share the good news, and bring his meager talents to the table -- what a wonderful savior He is! He even loves people like me: his backward kids, the underachievers, the kid who never makes cover of "Perfectly Adequate Preacher Monthly." Thanks, God. You're just what I need. Call me Isaac if you want to, Lord, but keep calling me nonetheless.