A short personal note here. I am scheduled to be interviewed on TBN’s Praise The Lord talk show on Friday. Two hours. To talk about my book, sit and look pretty on set, and maybe — oh, just maybe — play a song or two. (Maybe.) Regardless, I’m talking about the book and about ministry. Not sure what else will happen. I’ll be on set for two hours, so I’ve been told, from 11:30 to 13:30, but I need to be there an hour before the program begins.
This is just another very strange event in a deeply strange life. I had thought once that maybe the strangeness would stop, and I would settle down. But no, that doesn’t appear to be happening. I’m not sure what to make of it.
Actually, that’s not true. I know exactly what to make of it — I’m nervous and anxious. And my guts are doing what my innards do best when I get this way. They go all akimbo. No, I’m not giving any of you any more details. The next 48 hours are going to be weird — a long drive to Indianapolis (the program originates at WCLJ). And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
This is a little like getting ready to face an ELCA candidacy committee. Actually it’s worse — the audience is by far larger (millions!), and the consequences could be far greater (I hope some possibilities open up as a result of this) — and it’s much better, because unlike with the DC candidacy committee (all of this described in my book) I’m not facing people who hate me or fear me (or both). There are ways this interview could get awkward, and I’m going to try to make sure I’m present and cheerful and thoughtful and let the Spirit work over me. I’ve never done anything quite like this before. And hopefully, this will be a beginning.
Not long ago, I figured something out — the point and purpose of my life is to bear witness to the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ. I think that’s the point of all life — that’s who we are. But I can only control how I live, how I respond to this grace that has swept me up rather brutally, and really without my consent. Think Elijah draping his cloak over Elisha as the younger prophet-to-be works the field, or Samuel hearing the voice of God as he sleeps in the temple with Eli, or Jesus calling the disciples from their nets as the fished on the Sea of Galilee.
Or the words God speak to Jeremiah. I’m not much of a youth anymore, being a decrepit 47 now, and I’m not sure why God would call me, of all people, to this long, hard, miserable road of bearing witness. But these words are comfort and strength, and may even settle my gurgling guts:
7 But the Lord said to me
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow.
(Jeremiah 1:7-10 ESV)
I don’t feel like I’m set over kingdoms and nations. I’m just an unemployed ex-reporter with a useless, gold-plated education, and a seminary wash-out. (The last bit is not true; I have the MDiv. But I’m not going to be ordained any time soon.) I’m a failure, and who will listen to me?
And yet, as my friend David would no doubt lecture me right now — millions will listen. Many already have. More will. I have been called to speak. I am not shouting into an empty room.
Do not be afraid. There’s nothing God says more throughout scripture. Divine command. Do not be afraid. I am scared. Scared because I have no idea what is coming. Scared because the story I’ve told in this book makes me so very vulnerable.
All I have is the word of God, the promise of God.
1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus ‘knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11 ESV)