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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 1, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 15:15–21

O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (NRSV)

The story I tell myself after reading this passage is that Jeremiah is really identifying with his martyr persona. He seems to be saying, “Lord, you know what is happening to me. Punish my persecutors! It’s for your sake that I am suffering. I deprived myself of many things because of you. Now I can’t even count on you, as your help seems as unreliable as the weather.”

I can relate to his laments. I too know martyrdom, both in myself and in other people. It shows up in family life and in the workplace. It is even in our religious language and expectations.  Martyrs are honored, and selflessness is seen as a virtue and something to strive for. Yet the dark shadow of being selfless, over-giving, and sacrificial is that this serves a false part of ourselves. We can develop a false sense of entitlement because of our good works. We become codependent with others and with God. This does not honor our true self or our relationships. When things go badly, we blame others or God, because our expectations were not met.

Richard Rohr writes that in the dance of intimacy with God, we are called to develop an appropriate sense of self. Rohr states that the discovery of our deepest self and discovery of God should be the same discovery. It is when we martyr ourselves by trying to please God that we have lost ourselves and the connection is broken, by us.

God is not asking Jeremiah (or us) to be a relationship martyr. Rather, God is inviting Jeremiah to come back and become fortified. God gazes at Jeremiah with mirror neurons of love. If Jeremiah comes back into relationship, he will be made as secure as a fortified wall of bronze. This is God’s call to each one of us. 

Dear God, I want to be a partner in the dance of intimacy with you. I believe you call me to discover who I am at the deepest level—and there discover you loving me. Teach me to look upon others with your loving gaze. With gratitude. Amen.

Written by Susan Schemper, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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