You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.
I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
Jeremiah 20:7-9, NAB
The Lamentable Life of Jeremiah
The author of last Sunday’s First Reading did not have an easy life. In fact, it would seem that Jeremiah was an abject failure. The prophet Jeremiah...
Wrote the loooongest book in the Bible (The Book of Jeremiah).
Also wrote Lamentations… which was fitting for a life filled with sorrow and heartbreak.
Direct witness to the fall of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) in 586 B.C.
Not only witnessed the fall but had been warning people that it was coming… a warning which fell on deaf ears and hard hearts.
Was arrested & imprisoned for desertion.
Hid the Ark of the Covenant in the mountains...which would be lost until Indiana Jones found it.
Stoned by his own countrymen in Judah.
As a prophet, you have one job. Tell the people what’s coming so that they can be prepared, make the necessary changes, and change their future. Alas, Jeremiah had no such success and received no such glory. Which makes me think that…
Jeremiah was the Proto-blogger
Jeremiah was young...
He had a unique life experience tinged by tragedy....
He felt compelled to share all the things with his fellow man...
People trolled him…
Commenters were mean…
Nobody shared his posts on social media…
He often said to himself “I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more…”
But then he relented because the truth, love, and mercy of the Lord became “like fire burning in [his] heart, imprisoned in [his] bones” until he could no longer hold it in…
Sounds like a blogger to me. Or at least a modern day Christian trying to speak the truth. Further, Jeremiah is Hebrew for “the Lord will restore” which is fitting… because I find writing very restorative, both to me personally and to my relationship with the Lord. To be clear, I do not think the hobby/lifestyle/career of a blogger can be equated to the divinely inspired level of a major prophet, but there is a remarkable correlation between the oppressive and destructive forces of the secular world, national media, and general malaise drowning out any brave voices for truth and repentance, and the Babylonian exile.
So what about you? Do you feel like a Jeremiah in your life sometimes? Do you nudge, fraternally correct, encourage, chastise, beg, implore, yell (not recommended), or suggest that your fellow man repent, come home, try harder, be better, know their dignity--their worth? Or are we scared to offend? Scared to be rejected? Scared to fail? Not wanting to make ourselves vulnerable like Jeremiah? Anyone else feel the need for some Brene Brown quotes right about now? I’ll limit myself to three... okay, four with the GIF.
Jeremiah dared greatly, consistently made himself vulnerable, and was willing (sometimes begrudgingly, but still willing) to fail. So it seems fitting to share some wisdom from a modern day prophet of vulnerability, Brene Brown, and her book Daring Greatly (emphasis my own):
“It is worse to spend your life on the outside looking in, wondering what if, than it is to try and dare greatly and risk the chance of failure. Dare Greatly; get in the arena and try.”
“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
I am sure Jeremiah was scared… and we know he doubted his own abilities… In Jeremiah 1:6, he famously says, “I do not know how to speak, I am too young!” To which the Lord basically replies, “LIES! Shut up and do it anyway.” (Perhaps my Greek translation is a little off…) The Lord goes on to say in Jeremiah 1:8, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you.”
Where is your reluctance to share the truth? Is it a fear of your own inadequacies? Or a fear of rejection? Or stoning--because that does seem unpleasant. If we love the Lord. If we know the Lord. If we have experienced His mercy at all--even a little bit. We are compelled, like Jeremiah to tell the world the truth. Let that burning in our hearts be our guide. It is time for us to get okay with potential failure… whether we are speaking, or writing, or loving. Jeremiah wasn’t perfect, but he knew his mission. He knew his Father. And he loved his neighbors enough to share the truth. Jeremiah may have been afraid at times, or reluctant, or bitter about his task… but he pressed on.
St. Paul picks up on this theme of urging his brothers and sisters to not conform to this age in Sunday’s Second Reading :
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2, NAB
May we take these words of Paul as our prayer this week… and like Jeremiah offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (How vulnerable is that??). Jeremiah did not conform to his age, he dared to fail. May we be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we may discern what is the will of God in this crazy crazy world we live in, what is good and pleasing and perfect.