Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not Just, and Not Only

A couple of Sundays ago Dad cast his kindly eyes over the congregation and asked if there was anyone between the ages of 16 and 18. A couple of hands went up. "Please would you stand up for us?" he requested.

One young man got nervously, tentatively, to his feet.

"Look at this boy. This is our Jeremiah," Dad proclaimed.

And from there Dad began to talk about the Old Testament prophet who is revered for his wisdom, for his ability to deliver bad news and exhort his people to live within the bonds of captivity. Jeremiah not only had the unenviable task of delivering the dreadful tidings that Jerusalem and Judah would indeed be taken captive, but he also had to bear the wrath of the people as they tried to silence him.

  • His own brothers betrayed and attacked him.
  • A fellow priest beat him and put him in stocks for all to see and scorn at the gate near the Temple.
  • He was imprisoned by the king, a weak man who seemed genuinely fond of Jeremiah but was unable to stand up to the nobles the king's brother had placed in positions of power.
  • He was thrown into an unused cistern that had no water but was dank and muddy so that he sank into the sludge. They probably hoped he would just starve to death down there; but he was rescued by a foreigner. 
  • It goes without saying that he had death threats.

And he was called by God when he was around 16 to 18 years old! In addition to all that he went through above, God told this teenager that he shouldn't plan on getting married either.

When God first met with Jeremiah and called him to be a prophet, this is what He told Jeremiah, and this is what God would say to us when we question ourselves and wonder what the point of our life is:

I know you. Before your mother was pregnant, actually. You're not just a face in the crowd. You're not just a number.

I. Know. You.

I formed you. You know those things you're good at, those things you love to do? They're deliberately inherent in your DNA. Those things are going to help you accomplish what I want for you in your life.

I called you. And if I called you, what you're called to do is significant. If you go where I've sent you, you can bet that you're in the best place possible for you at this time. 

I set you apart. I've chosen you, and I am singling you out to accomplish what I have for you to do. I'm setting you apart not only from those things that are obviously profane, that are flagrantly wrong; I'm setting you apart from even the ordinary, the mundane. You are far from ordinary. You are here for a purpose. You are a gift to the world.

And as Dad spoke he told us of something he found out only about two weeks before his mother passed from this world into the next. Dad was born extremely premature, so premature that skin had not really formed on him - he had something akin to scales covering his body. The nurses wrapped him in cotton wool to protect him as well as keep him warm. When his mother asked to see her baby, the nurses told her it would be better for her if she didn't see him. She insisted, however, and finally they brought this tiny, sickly baby to his mother. She held him and loved him.

And she prayed. She prayed, "Oh God, if You will save my boy, I want him to serve you." Dad was set apart from that day. But she never told him, never put that kind of pressure on him. He just was. God knew. And she knew. And Dad went to India in 1959.

Poor little Jeremiah's response was, "But I can't speak; I'm just a kid!"

And God replied, "Don't say 'I'm just a kid.' You'll be able to go where I send you and say what I want you to say. Don't be afraid of people, because I am with you to deliver you."

The thing is, Dad went on, that when God calls you to do something, He gives you the resources to get the thing done.

He promises His sovereign presence to be with you all the time. He doesn't employ a surrogate. He Himself is with us.  

He provides for you. He will equip you with the talents and dreams and provisions you need to do what you are called to do. Never think anything you do is too small. Never think you are too small. Think about a glass of water - so small, so everyday, so insignificant. A glass of water, says Jesus in the New Testament, is not so small as to be overlooked. You yourself will be blessed by giving one of God's children a glass of water! A word of compassion to ease someone's day is not so small. The lunch of the little boy who went to hear Jesus speak ... not small at all!

Think of the thief on the cross, who gasped out in his last moments, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And that tiny prayer changed the course of his destiny.

In light of this, Dad concluded, if we are where we should be, we are not too small and not too insignificant.

Don't say "I'm just a housewife." Say "I'm a Housewife!"
Don't say "I'm only a teacher." Say "I'm a Teacher!"
Don't think of yourself as only a secretary or just the receptionist.
You're not just a cashier or only a construction worker.
You don't just work in the oil fields; you are not just a farmer.
"Just a student" is not good enough.

If you're where you are supposed to be, this work is as sacred, as important, as being a minister or a missionary.

And even if-and-when we get disheartened - as Jeremiah did - we are not alone. God is with us in our smallest task. "Don't be afraid," He would say to us, as He did to that teenager so many thousands of years ago. "I am with you. The work you are doing is of vital importance to me. YOU are a gift to the people with whom you come in contact. You are special."

So even on the hardest days, on the days when I question why I'm doing what I'm doing, I can echo the words Charles Wesley is reported to have said on his deathbed, "Best of all, God is with us."

I'm not just a tea bag. I'm the Tea Bag. And I'm where I belong.


  1. For the record, if anyone ever asks me, "Who is your favorite author?" response is immediately, "Karyn Ironside."

  2. can i say again how much i love your dad? because i do. very much.

  3. Karyn, I love this! What an encouragement to me today. Thank-you!


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