Only a Boy. Readings for February 3, 2012.
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Ps 71:1-6, 1 Cor. 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
"Then I said, Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." Jer. 1:6
Only a boy. That's Jeremiah's excuse. Jeremiah feels he is too inexperienced to be a prophet. He doesn't trust himself to try, and gives the impression he is a failure before he starts. He is afraid.
Self-doubt is familiar emotional territory, a place many of us regularly travel. More often than I like to admit, I worry if I am an adequate wife, parent, or friend. When I think about the role of pastor, I wonder how I can possibly do it. I have doubts, I get frustrated, I'm not aware of everything I think I should be, I make mistakes and can't measure up to the myriad expectations. I know I'm not alone in experiencing thoughts like these, thoughts that cripple our spirits and prevent us from listening for, and acting on, God's call.
The funny thing is that this is all so much navel-gazing. The point isn't whether or not we have faith in our own qualifications or abilities. What about faith in God? That's the issue. God tells Jeremiah, "do not say I am only a boy, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you..." God gives Jeremiah what he needs to do the job. It's telling, too, that God doesn't require success. The requirement is simply obedience. Jeremiah's job is to trust God and try. That's all. If God thinks you are up to the task, shouldn't that vote of confidence be all that is needed?
The Luke passage is another example of "only a boy". Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth where the people remember him as a kid. At first they love his success, but that quickly turns to resentment when he doesn't meet their expectations. It would have been easiest to stay there, basking in admiration, running around doing what the people wanted. But Jesus' trust is in God, not the demands of others, so he goes out to minister to others, even in Capernum where there are many non-Jews.