But, I Am Only...
Jeremiah 1: 4-10
“Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, LORD God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’”
This has always been one of my favorite passages.
Here we see the LORD God, YAHWEH Elohim… the personal God who is the uncreated One… the One Who just IS… the One Who will be Who He will be… The Mighty Creator and Ruler over all the universe, speaking to Jeremiah, a twenty-year-old young man, and calling him to step into the new leadership position of prophet to the nations--a position, God says, he was uniquely created for.
And what is Jeremiah’s response to this declaration from the Mighty God of the Universe? “Ah, LORD God! I don’t know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
Even though Jeremiah recognizes Who is speaking to him—the Mighty Creator God of the ENTIRE universe— he can’t see past his own perceived weakness in order to believe what God is saying is true about him.
“Nope. Nuh uh. Not gonna happen. You see, I am only…”
God quickly responds to Jeremiah with a word of correction, “Whoa… hang on there just one minute, Jeremiah. Do not say, ‘I am only’ anything.”
It’s interesting to me that God didn’t tell Jeremiah not to say, “I don’t know how to speak.” He didn’t correct THAT comment, because, well, that was probably the case. Jeremiah wasn’t equipped quite yet for the task. He still had some empowering to experience. So God didn't correct that statement because God knew He could equip Jeremiah with the gifts and the skills he needs. He can teach Jeremiah how to speak. He can put his words in his mouth, which he does in verse nine.
But he DOES correct, very clearly, the statement that contains within it Jeremiah’s view of himself that said he wasn’t enough to do what God was asking him to do.
Why correct one and not the other?
Here’s what I think.
I think this shows that it’s okay to say to God, “Ummm…. I don’t know how to do that.”
But the view that you aren’t enough—the view of yourself that makes you “only”—THAT must be corrected. Because even when God comes through for you and equips you and gifts you with everything you need to be successful in whatever He’s calling you to, if you maintain the “I am only” mindset, you will either not move forward in your giftedness, or you will function in your giftedness from a position of fear.
But you can’t function properly out of fear.
Fear will keep you up at night.
Fear will make you anxious and irritable.
Fear will lie to you and tell you that your efforts are wasted.
Fear will tell you to stop, even when you KNOW your God has told you to go.
Fear takes your eyes off of God and fixes them squarely on yourself.
Fear will make it so that no matter how gifted you are, you will still see yourself as not enough.
Another problem with this is that you are the starting point when you say, “I am only…” To say that reveals that you are putting more trust in your abilities—or lack, thereof—than in God’s abilities.
It reveals that you are putting more trust in who you perceive yourself to be, than in who God understands you to be and who He says you are.
So instead of looking at what you think is lacking in you, shift your gaze.
Get your eyes off yourself and your perceived weaknesses and set them firmly on God and ALL that He is—Who He has proven Himself to be time and time again. Go read the Psalms if you need help with this. They are FULL of examples of God’s greatness and power, goodness and faithfulness. Psalm 118 and Psalm 136 are perfect examples.
Start with Who God is and what He is able to do, then let yourself be someone He can use. Because you are not “only” anything. Even if you are in the world’s eyes, that doesn’t matter in God’s economy.
There’s a competitor on my new favorite TV show, Making It, (seriously, do yourself a favor and go watch this show) named Khiem. Khiem is an extremely creative woodworker. He can envision something in his mind that he wants to create, then go get a plain ‘ol plank or block of wood, and form it into something amazing and beautiful.
As the creator, Khiem could say to that new, beautifully created masterpiece of his, “Before I formed you, I knew you. I knew what you were going to be and how I was going to use you. And because I, a master woodworker, made you, I know what you are capable of. I know that you can be and do exactly what I created you to be and do.”
It would be crazy for his new creation to say to Khiem, the creator, “No, I can’t. I’m only…” Doesn’t it just make sense that the creator should know better than the creation what is possible?
God knows what He’s doing. He knows what you are capable of. He knew all of that before He even formed you.
He envisioned YOU.
He created YOU.
He has a purpose for YOU.
So the next time you notice yourself saying or thinking, “Ughhh…I am only…”, please stop and tell yourself Who your God is. Shift your gaze and set your eyes on Him—your YAHWEH Elohim...the One Who Is…your Mighty Creator God, who says, “See, today I appoint you.”