Jeremiah 1: 5-10 (MSG)
5 “Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.”
6 But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.
I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”
7-8 God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’
I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.
Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”
9-10 God reached out, touched my mouth, and said,
“Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered!
See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do
among nations and governments—a red-letter day!
Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.”
How often have we heard the words “out of the mouths of babes” when a child confirms received wisdom and we delight in their growing understanding? On the other hand, too often we hear the phrase ‘’they’ll learn” when a young person (though not exclusively) challenges the status quo with their dream of a more equitable world where none go hungry, or where none have to flee for safety. We may feel challenged both about the way we think and the way we live. God’s words in Jeremiah are both a comfort and challenge to all of us.
A contemporary example is the young people’s movement for climate emergency where they took a day off school once a month to demonstrate to us all their concern. They are receiving mixed reactions, clearly highlighted in this quote from the young activist leader Greta Thurnberg’s teacher: “Greta is a troublemaker; she is not listening to adults, but we are heading full speed for a catastrophe in this situation and the only reasonable thing is to be unreasonable.”
And I’m sure many of us can remember a time when we faced discouragement or condescension or opposition from those ‘who know best’. It takes courage to stand against that, whatever age we are, and here is God is reminding us that the words and how to proceed will come from him.
Jeremiah assures us today that God has plans for every one of us even before we were born, and wisdom is not the prerogative of the elderly. We need to learn to listen to God’s plan, even if we feel the messenger is not the one we expect.
"May I live this day
Compassionate of heart
Clear in word
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought
Generous in love." (John O'Donohue, from 'To Bless The Space Between Us')