When I was in grammar school, one day my mother sent me into school with a little delivery for the teacher. Now, these types of things always seemed to happen to me. My family always seemed to do things completely differently from everyone else, and it seemed like I always had to do something different in school.
But always doing things different took its toll on me. I became tired of standing out, of feeling so different and separate from everyone else, of being the oddball. So, this time, I thought, I’ve had it. I decided I wouldn’t get up in front of everybody and do the different thing and deliver the goods to the teacher. I tore up the envelope my mother had given me, and just pretended that nothing had happened. No delivery, no standing out, no oddball.
Several weeks later, my mother began to ask me about the little delivery. It had a big tuition check in it, and apparently the school didn’t receive it. So, I lied. I told her that I had given it to the teacher. Of course the teacher didn’t have it, so it became a big mystery, the missing tuition check. I was the only one who knew it was in the landfill across the town.
As much as I pretended to put it all behind me, it sat on my conscience. But I had made up my mind that I would carry that guilt and endure the suffering – I could take it, I thought. It took many years before I revealed what really happened.
You know what I think was my big problem? I was alone.
Jeremiah was a message deliverer. He was a prophet sent to deliver messages to the kings and people of Israel and their neighbors. He had to do the most unpopular thing. He stood out and was an oddball, and he suffered a lot of persecution from a lot of people. One time, he was beaten up and put in prison by a priest who heard him delivering the message. And Jeremiah complained to God:
I have become a laughingstock all the day; every one mocks me. For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot … Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame? (Jer 20:7-9,18)
He just about told God, that’s it, I’ve had it. No more doing the different thing, the oddball thing, and delivering the message. No more shame and humiliation, no more beatings and imprisonment, no more persecution or suffering. No delivery, no standing out, no oddball.
He stood right on the brink of saying this to God.
But I think there’s a big reason why he didn’t.
It’s because he wasn’t alone.
When God first came to Jeremiah, He told him that he was known and chosen as a prophet even before he was conceived in the womb. God tells Jeremiah that He is going to send him to people and that he is going to tell them what He wants. And then God tells him that important piece of information, that very special tidbit that frees Jeremiah to accept his unpopular vocation:
He tells him that He Himself is going to be with him. “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” (Jer 1:8)
He will never be alone.
In God’s family, our mother Mary is going to send us on little delivery missions. They are going to be unpopular, and we are going to experience some humiliation and persecution. We’ll be the oddballs. But if this seems too much for you, if you think you might do like I did with my mother’s message, remember what God told Jeremiah.
Do not be afraid. Mary herself will be with you to deliver you.
You will never be alone.