Sunday, August 31, 2014

"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped." Pulled into a swimming pool.


"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped."

Recently I was on vacation and I was visiting a priest friend in Washington DC and another family that I had met from my first assignment in North Carolina.

I had a great time with both, but my time with the priest was much more peaceful!

I did have a wonderful time with the family but there were some unexpected surprises.  One of the funniest was one morning when the kids were off at school I found myself at the community pool.  I was the only one there reading, enjoying the sun, resting, praying, and simply relaxing.

When I was just nodding off into one of those wonderful mid-afternoon naps I heard the pool gate open and the youngest two girls playfully yelling "Hi Fr. Michael!"  The mother, before I even realized what was going on said: "I have to go pick up my other daughter, you got this right?"  Even if I would have had time to think and tell her no, she was already on her way.

My silence was over and these two little girls who had been in school all day now wanted to entertain.  There would be no more reading or napping or relaxing; they demanded undivided attention.

The youngest of the girls, Mikaela, jumped into the pool first and shouted to her sister Lindsay: "Come in, the water isn't cold I promise."  And then had that smirk that siblings share when they are up to something and she said to her sister.  "Here, help pull me out."  Lindsay said "No, your going to pull me in."  And from the water Mikaela smiled and said "Trust me."

As Lindsay reached down to pull her sister up, Mikaela, instantly grabbed her with both hands and pulled her head over heels into the water.  I shook my head and laughed... "Trust me... right."

Lindsay had let herself be pulled in, she let her sister dupe her, and before long they were both laughing and playing in the pool.  In the meantime I realized I had been duped as well, my peaceful afternoon of solitude was now complete attention on the boundless energy of girls who had been in school all day.  I had been duped and I let myself be duped!

The Prophet Jeremiah is coming into the realization that God has duped him and he let himself be duped.  Only it isn't a playful situation for him.

Jeremiah had been called from a very young age by the Lord to be a prophet.  He once said: “Ah, Lord GOD!”  “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!"  But the Lord encouraged him and assured him: Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go;  whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you."

God was basically saying "Trust me" and Jeremiah let himself be pulled in way over his head!

Jeremiah was very sincere, he saw the impending doom that was coming to the people and he greatly wanted to spare them from it.  He saw that they had turned their back on God and pleaded with them to return.  Jeremiah, would come to be known as the prophet of doom!

Over the years he would be imprisoned, exiled, persecuted, mocked, laughed at, ridiculed and nearly put to death.  Through it all he maintained this very real, loving relationship with the Lord.

I have a dear friend whose mother used to always say: "God never sends you anything you can't handle."  And his response would always be: "Yeah, but He sure can be testy."

The truth is we may find ourselves feeling like the Prophet Jeremiah at times.  There are times when we go into things thinking we are answering God's call and we end up feeling duped.  We feel like God has let us down or even tricked us.  We beat ourselves up because we knowingly on some level let ourselves be duped by God.  There's a tendency to never want to let it happen again.

I think there are a lot of situations where we can find ourselves lamenting our call in life.

It was once said to me by an older priest, I'm glad I didn't know everything I would face going into this because I might not have had the courage to do it.

I know of many married couples who come to the realization that the "Honeymoon is over!"  They realize that their spouses aren't perfect, marriage is hard, and now really choosing to love begins.  

Couples often say the same thing about children.  "We had no idea how hard it would be."

There's always "buyers remorse" after the purchase of a new home.

Sometimes it's a job or a career path that turns out to be "not what you thought it was going to be."

Maybe your life has not turned out to be the way you imagined it would be.

Through it all you may find yourself lamenting and saying "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped."

Sometimes when we feel this way, we have a tendency just to shut God out, to stop praying, stop communicating with Him and ultimately stop trusting.

Jeremiah even thinks about going back on his calling:

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

The reading ends abruptly in the lectionary today, but we don't get to see is what follows.  

Jeremiah, instead of shutting God out, Laments.  This is where we see the true wisdom and the depth of love that Jeremiah has for God.  He has such a deep and trusting relationship with God that he is even able to share his disappointment.  He communicates his feelings to God, he continues dialogue with God.  In fact his being willing to share his lamentations with God shows that he has a very real and deep relationship with God.
As he is lamenting to God, and venting his frustration, God must speak something to him because for a brief moment his tone changes.  Jeremiah has an epiphany: "But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion."

His prayer of lamentation turns to a prayer of praise.  In communicating his frustration with God he realizes that God is with him, that God is real and that God can be trusted once more.  Instead of shutting God out, he shares with God and moments later he is open again.

I have a friend who is returning to the seminary and when he first made the decision he was the most peaceful I have ever seen him and now that it is all starting he has been plagued by the enemy with doubts and questions and anxiety.  But I can see a hint of openness and a hint of light because he looked at me and asked... "Should I let myself be duped again?"  "You bet" I said, with a genuine smile at knowing the joys of priesthood I could assure him that God can be trusted.

I had the opportunity to share this story with the father of the the girls and he just laughed and said to me... now you know what it's like to be me, Fr. Michael!

So imagine the Lord reaching his hand out to you right now and asking you to trust him... Are you willing to let yourself be duped?

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