undone

by Elizabeth de Barros

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  And one cried unto another, and said,

Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.

 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

-Isaiah 6:1-5

angel wing

To talk about the holiness of God isn’t easy. Most adults squirm, switch topics, or worse yet—quietly leave the room. Children (mine) are different. How they respond can be astonishing. Their still-forming identities aren’t jaded by sin; their white souls easily engage. Just when I think I’ve lost them, one of them will come out with something postmarked directly from the storehouse of heaven.

When I decided to teach my sons about the holiness of God, I knew a visual would help; Isaiah 6 made good sense for such an abstract. We defined the term holy as something “set apart.” We learned why angels cry holy, holy, holy three times: for emphasis. I felt it was my duty to explain, “He’s not just holy,”…”He’s holy, holy, holy“—my nine-year old’s eyes grew wide while I was experiencing a loss for words. We discussed how the flaming angels, known as seraphim, each cover their faces and feet with two wings and fly with the other two. That’s six wings total. I next prepped for a zinger. I asked what “using all six wings” might symbolize for the believer. What gold rolled off my fourteen-year old’s tongue: “Um, give your all in worship.”

Teacher became student. In that moment, all I could say was, “Wow.”

Isaiah’s commission came on the heels of a powerful vision of God’s majestic holiness. The prophet’s response shows what a glimpse of heaven will do to a person.

“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

-Isaiah 6:5

Another idea I threw out to them was how God is “Other Other.” The younger one sat, quiet as a bird, looking up and away with a lone fist used as a pedestal for his chin. I knew better not to rush him. He likes to take everything in, give himself time to think.

I waited.

Again I asked what he thought about the idea of  God as “Other Other.” He squinted. With a single nod, he looked me in the eye and said under his breath, “Yes.”

I was undone.

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