First Steps

Published by Matthew Johnson on

Moving from one place to the next usually involves taking steps, walking through a door, making a small decision. When we made the decision to welcome an orphan into our home this summer, we knew we were taking a step in a new direction, but it wasn’t the first time we had considered caring for the unwanted and unloved. Almost a year earlier, I had started reading Until Every Child Is Home, a book by Todd Chipman about how the church can and should care for orphans. That book started a conversation in my home, and Christy and I agreed together, “Someday… this might be what God is calling us to do.” We didn’t know what it would look like, whether foster care or adoption, but we committed to walk through the door when God made it clear.

The Call

Like other “big” decisions in life, a number of small choices and desires had led us to this place. For weeks, I had been reading Isaiah 58, challenged by the rebuke from God to His people about their worship:

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.”

Isaiah 58:3-4 NLT

I had been wrestling with the idea that my acts of worship were simply to please myself. God’s challenge to His people is what kept tugging at my heart:

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Isaiah 58:6-7 NLT

I kept thinking to myself that I didn’t know anyone who was oppressed. I rarely met someone hungry, and I didn’t know anyone who was homeless or in need of clothes. That isn’t to say that there aren’t homeless people in my city, but how did I know who to pursue with clothing and food? So I began to pray that God would bring those people to me and make it clear how I could obey.

Praying As a First Step

I think we often overlook the power of prayer in how God shapes our desires. But as I began to pray and ask God to help me see how I should obey, I began to feel more of the desire to obey. God opened my eyes to ways in which He could work to make something happen. It turned out that one answer to my prayer was right in front of my eyes in the scripture I had read over and over: “…do not hide from relatives who need your help.”