2015 Lent 27

Depiction_of_a_futuristic_city

Jeremiah 23:1-8

In seminary I was required to do a lot of self-assessment.

For the record, self-assessment is not to be confused with self-absorption.  Both self-absorption and self-assessment are focused inwardly, on oneself.  But self-absorption focuses on self to the exclusion of all others.  A self-absorbed person is unaware of much of the surrounding world.  One focuses on oneself without regard to others.  The goal of self-assessment, on the other hand, is to broaden one’s understanding of the world starting with the person one knows best: oneself.

Maybe a simpler way to state it is: a self-absorbed person focuses only on his or her strengths; whereas a self-assessing person deeply understands his or her own weaknesses as well as strengths, and thereby increasingly understands the surrounding world.

Anyway, one of the batteries my classmates and I took to assess ourselves is called StrengthsFinder.  I’m sure you can look it up on Google if you’re interested.

The idea with StrengthsFinder is to find one’s top five strengths from a list of something like thirty-five.  Some of the words on this list are Achiever, Ideation, Thinker, and Woo.  They’re more or less self-explanatory.

With the top five strengths of each person listed, with only thirty-five to choose from, and with a class size of twenty-five students, you would be right if you guessed there was considerable overlap.  One of my top five was Thinker, for instance; which also showed up in several others’ top five.

All this is to point out how unusual I thought it, then, when Futuristic made my top five but no one else’s.  I thought it unusual because thinking into the future and making plans thereby is a part of my natural make-up, a part of who I am, something that comes second-nature to me, something I don’t have to think about because it just happens.  But it also struck me as unusual because this thinking that comes so naturally to me was apparently not something so natural for other people.

Of course, there’s a flipside to being naturally futuristic: I can escape–or plan my next escape at least, and then derive a good deal of joy from my future plan while enduring present trials.  In other words, there is potentially a great weakness in this strength too.

So–confession here–learning this about myself has led me to question whether some of my past moves have been related to this potential weakness.  Did I ever leave one teaching job for another, for instance, because I was experiencing interpersonal struggles with a principal and hoping to find a better boss-employee relationship?  But this is real self-assessment; knowing this about myself will help me guard from making such a mistake down the road, in the future.

Enough about me.  Now onto Jeremiah.

Today he turns his attention to the future.  Israel’s present situation is bad.  He’s been telling us this for twenty-two chapters while also telling us, now and again, here and there, that Israel’s situation had been better at one time or another in the past.  Still, the present seems pretty hopeless.

The one way out of this hopelessness is to repent, he’s been saying.

But, really, I’m sympathetic to Israel’s plight.  How easy is it to change tack when you’re browbeaten day after day?

If you’re at all like me (dang!  I’ve slipped back into self-assessment again!), in a situation like this I start planning my escape.  I’m not going to change my personality because someone’s browbeating me.  I’m not going to change my habits very easily either–especially the older I get!  But I can change the situation, get out from under the browbeater’s stick!  And the more seemingly hopeless the situation the more I plan my escape until it becomes my new reality.  Making future plans gives me hope.

Well, that’s where Jeremiah turns today–finally! now, at last, I can take a deep breath!–to hope in the future.

“The days are coming,” Jeremiah tells his people, “when . . . Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.”

God will do a bunch of great things for Israel, the Prophet says.  God will bring people back into community and give them wise, competent, just and righteous leaders to shepherd them.

That’s enough to give me hope.

But I realize I’m not like everyone else.  I was the only person to see Futuristic in my top five.  Which leads me to wonder, is it enough to give Israel hope?  Is it enough to give you hope?

If you’re not futuristic, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.

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