He begins chapter four with a passage from Jeremiah (the book is essentially reflections on his life), then from Fellowship of the Ring.
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young. ”But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord...
"Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land." (Jer. 1:6-8, 18 NIV)
"I am not made for perilous quests," cried Frodo. "I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?"
"Such questions cannot be answered," said Gandalf. "You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others to don't possess; not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have." (J.R.R. Tolkien)Then he says, "God asked Jeremiah to do something he couldn't do. Naturally he refused." It makes sense, we shouldn't agree to do those things we cannot do. Jeremiah didn't think he could be a prophet, he was inadequate for the task.
If we look at ourselves and are absolutely honest, we are always inadequate.Oh yes, I'm "practiced" :o/, but I often don't realize that is what I'm missing: "living at the best God calls [me] to." But...we don't get to stop, to quit, to give up, just because we think we can't do it. In a sense I already know what follows, but Peterson said it well.
There is an enormous gap between what we think we can do and what God calls us to do. Our ideas of what we can do or what to do are trivial; God's ideas for us are grand. God's call to Jeremiah to be a prophet parallels his call to us to be a person. The excuses we make are plausible; often they are statements of fact, but they are excuses all the same and are disallowed by our Lord, who says: "Don't say, 'I'm only a boy.' I'll tell you where to go and you'll go there. I'll tell you what to say and you'll say it..."
What will it take, then, to live this life?
There is no living the life of faith, whether by prophet or person, without some kind of sustaining vision like this. At some deep level we need to be convinced, and in some way or other we need periodic reminders, that no words are mere words. In particular, God's words are not mere words. They are promises that lead to fulfillments. God performs what he announces. God does what he says.And so God gave Jeremiah two "sustaining visions," to convince him, to remind him in the future--a blossoming almond branch and a boiling pot.
In order to be equipped to be what God calls us to be--prophet, person--and not be crippled all our lives by inadequacy, we need to know supremely these two subjects, God and world, and to be trained in them thoroughly. In both subjects, first impressions and surface appearances are deceiving. We don't see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everyone. The visions penetrate appearances. By means of the blossoming almond and the boiling pot we are trained to live with a keen edge of hope and to never be intimidated by evil. For if we are going to live in God's image, alive to all that is God, open and responsive to all he is doing, we must trust in his word, trust what we do not see. And if we are going to live in the world, attentive to each particularity, loving it through all the bad times without being repelled by it or afraid of it or conformed to it, we are going to have to face its immense evil, but know at the same time that it is a limited and controlled evil.I wonder if my biggest problem is this: "[I] don't see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing." And so I get disheartened.
All this worked for Jeremiah. He was able to live the life he was meant to live.
And so I asked the Lord, "What is my vision? Is there one for me? Can you give me one? What will see me through?"
And all I came up with is the simple "vision" (just one verse actually) that was given before--long ago. Simple enough, yet still big. Is that it? Is that all? Beyond that, I don't need to worry and fret? I can start here. It seems there is still something missing...so I will continue to seek.
I suppose I will continue to, as I have in the past, struggle with the frustration of trying to figure out how to go forward, and that struggle is a part of "living at the best God calls [me] to." However I hope I can learn to struggle less vigorously. Struggle, but not in a way that leaves me frustrated, feeling like I've failed, and leaves those around me feeling pressured to achieve things currently impossible.
No more "pleading inadequacy." It is what God decides about me that matters, and for what He has decided I am to do, He will qualify me.
I've been reminded in recent days, and I need to keep being reminded. Thank you Lord, please lead me on.