Many people think if you attend church or are a church member, you are a Christian. Some- times people believe if you are basically kind and try to do the right thing you are going to go to heaven. Those who’ve been influenced by Eastern thinking try to submerge into a state of being. Others have no thoughts one way or another, don’t care, or are hostile to the mention of God, and especially Christianity and Jesus Christ. And there are always the ones who say, hey, whatever works for you, and then quickly change the subject.
I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and on Wednesday night. I thought I was a Christian, but as I became older I found myself longing to know God better. There was something missing despite all of my religious activity and sincerity. I wasn’t sure what it was—it was kind of an elusive feeling—but I knew whatever it took to be close to God, I just didn’t have it.
Summer of 1970 was the summer after my freshman year in college. It had been a tumultuous year of national riots. The Feminine Mystique, Situation Ethics and various readings from the Theatre of the Absurd had been part of my coursework. All of these 60’s remaking of reality just kind of washed over me. I read them, disagreed with them and discarded them. But I was restless.
That summer as the weeks went on I had more and more questions. In my wanderings through the Bible I found in Isaiah 59 words that astonished me because they described exactly how I was feeling in my search to know God:
We grope along the wall like blind men,
We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at midday as in the twilight,
Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.
All of us growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We hope for justice, but there is none,
For salvation, but it is far from us.
That was me! I was groping and stumbling in a search along a wall. I was a sadly moaning dove hoping for justice and salvation, but finding both far from me. Isaiah not only described the symptoms of my unknown illness, he diagnosed it:
For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And we know our iniquities:
Transgressing and denying the Lord,
And turning away from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words.
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands far away;
For truth has stumbled in the street,
And uprightness cannot enter.
Strong words, aren’t they? But accurate. I hadn’t committed a crime and I’d tried to be good—I wasn’t even one of the flower children doing drugs—yet I could think of many things I had done that were wrong. I knew I had sinned. I understood that my sin had separated me from God.
I still didn’t know how to get past my sin to God, but the words were a relief to read. Within Isaiah’s imagery I clearly saw myself. I had found the reason why I felt so restless. I’d found a door in the wall I’d been groping along. That wall no longer stretched in front of me endlessly. The door was locked, but it was there.
Mourning Dove: Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.