The Next Step

Ms. Laura Hale (’13)
February 7, 2013
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalms 71:1-6

Image courtesy wordle.net

Jeremiah 1:4–10 • The LORD’s word came to me: “Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, LORD God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child.” The LORD responded, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’ Where I send you, you must go; what I tell you, you must say. Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and said to me, “I’m putting my words in your mouth. This very day I appoint you over nations and empires, to dig up and pull down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.”

Psalms 71:1–6 • I’ve taken refuge in you, LORD. Don’t let me ever be put to shame! Deliver me and rescue me by your righteousness! Bend your ear toward me and save me! Be my rock of refuge where I can always escape. You commanded that my life be saved because you are my rock and my fortress. My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked; rescue me from the grip of the wrongdoer and the oppressor because you are my hope, Lord. You, LORD, are the one I’ve trusted since childhood. I’ve depended on you from birth— you cut the cord when I came from my mother’s womb. My praise is always about you.

 

The night before the first day of school, I always sharpened my pencils and organized all of my books. My clothes were all laid out, perfect for that first day. Even in college, before every semester starts, I order my books and lay out my clothes. I make sure I have a cute and dressy, but not to dressy outfit to wear on my first day. This is my certainty. The comfort of the routine calms my nerves as I worry about the first day, the new people I will meet and the hope that my professors will like me and I them. It is safe and comfortable for me.

But in a few months, I will not have another first day of class. I will not need to sharpen my pencils or order books. I will get to pick out my clothes, but they won’t be the comfortable pair of jeans I always picked out for the first day of school, they will be heels and a business suit. I will be in the working world, or the “real world” as we tend to call it. The world of responsibilities and bosses relying on me and having to pay my rent money and I can’t get a bail out from mom and dad. A world that is all too real. And it is very scary. I have heard the seniors before me and the seniors now say over and over again, “I don’t wanna be a real person, I don’t wanna be a real person yet, can’t I go back to college?” We don’t want to go into the world, we don’t want to answer our next calling in life, our calling beyond the comfortable school.

So too, we all face times in our lives where we don’t want to move to the unknown. For example, the night before we started college, that time we went to our first job or internship interview, or that time we moved away. When we had to move from what was comfortable to a new unknown and uncomfortable place. We all plant our heels at some point and say, I don’t want to grow up, I don’t want to try something new, I can’t make it. We don’t want to move forward and answer the call for change.

In a similar sentiment, God is calling to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  And in the answer, that the seniors and all of us give, Jeremiah says, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” Jeremiah pulls out the old faithful, I need one more speech writing class God, give me a few more years and I will be so good at it, I’m not ready. I just need more time. I don’t want to be a real person yet.

But just as Jeremiah could not avoid God’s call, so too we can not avoid the end of the year. We see a change ahead, whether that is graduation or staying in DC over the summer or a new relationship with our parents and we can not turn back. We have to walk into that new season of life and become a “real person” whatever that means. Just like Jeremiah, we must take the next step in our life, we don’t get an escape route.

Just as we become scared sometimes when there is a change coming, so too do we struggle with the feeling of having to stay. Of feeling ready to move on, but being unable to leave or being worried of what would come next if we left. We get in that space of wanting to go, but not wanting to go.

Both passages I read tonight bring out an understanding of timing. They focus on the timing of birth. The psalmist speaks of birth and God being their saying, “it was you who took me for my mother’s womb.” In our time God takes us from the comfortable spaces we know and into the wide world. We cannot leave too soon for like an infant born way to soon we would not have the skills to survive, nor can we stay to long for just as an infant we outgrow the spaces where we are. Each of us has a different amount of time we must take on each part of our journey, but we must move ever forward in our time of calling forth.

This shift is frightening, but as God says to Jeremiah, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my word in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

God told Jeremiah he would not be alone. So too, God is with us on this journey. He will not leave us, just because we graduate or start something new in our lives. There will be times in our lives where we feel overwhelmed and scared and uncertain, but what God is saying through the psalmist and through Jeremiah, is that God will not leave us alone

God did not leave Jeremiah without the things he needed to do his work. He gave Jeremiah the gift of speech. In our own lives, God will not leave us without the tools we need. We already have more tools than we know. Think back to when you came to college, you already knew how to make friends, you went to pre-school, how to read, kindergarten, how to listen, first grade, and a basic understanding of how to write, school. We learned and continue to learn in college, but we did not come in without some skills and some preparation.

Each of you has more skills than you know. You each have gifts that will help you in each new challenge and change that you face.

Instead of focusing on our fear and saying that we are not ready for the real world or the next step, we should instead focus on God’s call to the next step. It was God who called us from our mother’s wombs in our time and it is God who keeps calling us in each walk of life. And as we take our next steps, we step in courage and with strong purpose knowing that we have more tools that we think and we are not alone, God is with us. Amen.