The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“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.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:4-10
Some of my favourite moments in the Bible are when God calls someone to something big. I find a strange sort of comfort in how these stories play out.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 shares an intimate moment between the prophet Jeremiah and God Himself, when God calls Jeremiah to do his difficult work of preaching bad news to the nation of Israel. God begins the conversation with a beautiful, poetic address to Jeremiah, telling him that before Jeremiah was born God had set him apart as a prophet. This was Jeremiah's destiny. This is what Jeremiah was created to do.
And Jeremiah responds in such a human way. He comes up with excuses. "I don't know how to speak," he says. "I'm too young." Jeremiah knows this is a big deal. God just laid out his entire purpose in life, and Jeremiah isn't so sure God has the right guy.
I don't know about you, but I know I've done the same thing. Looking back over my life, I can see a number of moments as I was growing up where God was trying to show me that I was supposed to go into ministry. But I was sure I was supposed to do something with music, or teaching (like all my siblings), or something...not church. And when I got the call to plant a church in Oshawa, I could have told you a million reasons why I was the wrong person. I'm not the Alpha-male, CEO-type leader that's often thought of for church planting. I'm in the wrong life-stage; my husband and I still want to have another baby, and it would be crazy to do both (right?). Moving to Canada would be too hard. We don't know anybody in Oshawa, and we'd be completely starting life over.
But Jeremiah and I aren't the only ones to respond to God's big call in this way. Moses did it (Exodus 3:10-14), saying, "Who am I that I should go?" Sarai (or Sarah) did it (Genesis 18:1-15), laughing when God sent visitors to bring the news that she and her husband would have a son in their old age. Jonah did it (Jonah 1), running away to the point of having to be thrown off a boat and swallowed by a fish to get him to listen. In fact, in almost every instance in Scripture, when God comes calling and shares His purpose for someone's life, their response is almost always to resist at first. There are always excuses, or disbelief, or running away, or even laughter.
And in each instance, God's response is the same. God says, "Don't be afraid. I'll be with you."
In the face of our excuses, our fear, and our disbelief, God simply responds with his faithful presence.
When you look at Jeremiah - or Moses or Sarah or Jonah - it turns out that God was right. And he remained true to his word; God was always with each of them, every step of the way.
What big calling does God have for you next? Maybe He's calling you to step out in faith, or to connect with your neighbours in a deeper way, or to be more open about who you are and the One who shapes your life to your friends and family who are outside of the church. Or maybe He's asking you to step into relationship with Him for the first time. I know for me, in my calling to start a new church in North Oshawa, I'm holding on every day to the assurance of God's presence with me. And today, I invite you to do the same.