I don’t know why I was so nervous. After all, I’d met the boss before and was fine. But this situation was different. We were at an event when not just my boss, but his boss, and his boss were present, and I was the most “junior” man in the room. I confess, I was intimidated and had a million scenarios running through my head about how I was going to react wrong or make a fool out of myself in front of all these powerful men. I was dressed nice with my coat and tie, but not nearly as nice as the “big wigs” in the room. I knew my job, and I was able to talk about my job and our industry, but not nearly on the same level as these leaders. I was competent but young, and I was a nervous wreck!
Oh, nothing bad happened, and all my fears were unfounded, but I’ll never forget the nagging voice in my head “Buddy, you don’t belong here.” Most folks wouldn’t think of me as insecure, but I sure was in this situation. I bet you’ve had similar experiences in your own life.
Where does this insecurity come from? Well, to be honest, feeling a bit insecure in certain situations is appropriate at times. The stress of that moment is an education on how to handle yourself next time. Of course, some get stuck in their insecurity and it stops being instructive and becomes destructive.
Look at our lesson today in Isaiah 7:11-14. This is the last part of the reading for today and a very special part indeed:
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
St. Isaiah is addressing the reality of a nation that has forgotten their fidelity to God and His wisdom and he is instructing certain men to stand up and be counted for righteousness and deal with the reality that some of the tribes of Israel had forgotten themselves so much that they have actually joined forces with other hostile nations against their own brethren in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
In the midst of Isaiah’s warnings and instruction he tells of how Ahaz had a conversation with God and Ahaz is absolutely terrified to do as God tells him. Notice that God instructs Ahaz to ask for a sign from Him that He will ultimately save the Faithful. But Ahaz refuses and does so in a way that almost appears pious: “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” Sounds completely reasonable. doesn’t it.
But wait, God isn’t fooled a bit by Ahaz. His response reveals the real problem here: “Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?” Ahaz had become so estranged from intimacy with God, he couldn’t tell a temptation from an invitation. And that lack of intimacy with God, knowing Him, loving Him, revealed itself in Ahaz’ lack of discernment when God was inviting him to know God better. So God Himself provides the sign: “…a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuael.” Of course, we know what that name means don’t we? It means “God is with us.”
The tragedy of a loss of closeness to God, knowing Him and loving Him, has long term consequences for us. And none of those consequences are good. The season of Great Lent offers us a way back to that intimacy with God through repentance. But so often we drift so slowly from God we don’t recognize we are “away” until we are far away. What a loving God Who speaks to us in His Church to invite us “back home” with Him.
So, today, are you drifting from your close relationship with God? Maybe you’ve never had that closeness with God before. The answer to both conditions is the same – repentance. Not a “I’m so bad and I’ve done so many bad things” as much as “I want to be close to God because I want to love Him.” The “distance between you and God is made up in the distance your knees are to the floor. Come to a special Lenten service next week and embrace being Orthodox on Purpose!