The Annoyance of Jeremiah 29:11
The Annoyance of Jeremiah 29:11
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope…”
Okay, great, God, YOU know the plans you’ve made for me. I’m SO GLAD. Now, would you mind sharing them a bit with me? I mean, I don’t need to know every single detail. I’d just like to know whether you want me to go RIGHT or LEFT, NORTH or SOUTH, to teach and be a writer, or to keep working my butt off at a conservative seminary where I feel completely isolated, don’t get financial assistance, and have to somehow fit it in with being a mother, a wife, and working full time. I guess you know which direction I’m leaning…
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I could say that God hasn’t given me the opportunity to teach, and therefore, that somehow God wants me to do something else. Or, I could say that I just haven’t made enough sacrifices to make it possible for me to follow what I would consider to be my “plan A.” I hate the word “discernment,” but that’s what this is, isn’t it. Maybe I hate that word because it seems like an excuse to stay in a bad situation – like well, this is where God wants me to be, even if it sucks. Or maybe it’s a way to justify poor choices, or to say, well, those weren’t really mistakes, or that horrible situation that I experienced needed to happen so that I could be where I am now. I can’t help but think that all that is just crap. Or, maybe I hate that word because I’m so damn bad at it.
I like to be a doer. And I get very insecure about who I am and what I’m doing if I don’t get some sort of outside feedback. But discernment, understanding one’s “calling” (another word I hate), just doesn’t happen with lightning bolts or visits from angels anymore, at least, not for me. That’s the stuff of walking on water, loaves multiplying, the blind seeing, - not of my life. I have to sweat blood just to see God in the red worms I’ve got chewing on my coffee grounds and banana peels in my garage. I have to read process and feminist theology, scrape the bottom of the lectionary with a spatula for some truth, I have to leave presbytery meetings with a churning stomach and a migraine headache. I don’t hear the voice of God, not even the still, small voice. I beg for it, and I get silence.
The thing is, I don’t know, really, if there is a God. But I want there to be one so badly, that really, isn’t that the same thing? Faith as “assurance of things hoped for”? Some people emphasize the assurance, but I’m sitting in the back pew, wringing my hands, hanging on to the hope.
What did the ancient Hebrews have to hold on to when they were in exile? Only Jeremiah’s words. Only the hope that some day they’d get to go home again. And this passage in Jeremiah never tells us whether or not they get to know what the plans are. And let’s face it, they’re still waiting, even today, to get back home again.
So, great. Here I am. Full of doubts. Full of hopes. If I’m “supposed” to be a pastor, that’s all I’ve got to offer. I won’t be able to stand up in a presbytery meeting and say “this is what I know for sure” in any way that will satisfy the Presbyterian gatekeepers. I stay up at night wondering and worrying about what my next step should be, begging God to lead me somewhere that won’t…suck. But during the day, I’m nursing my son, washing diapers, making vegetarian quiches, planning Vacation Bible School, walking my dogs, and trying to stay warm amidst the silence of now.
What else is there to do?