Have you ever cried so much that you run out of tears? The post I offered previous to this was about the splendid promise of grief. And, still, we are flooded by a tide of violence that does not relent. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were executed without due process by police officers. Other incidents of terror and hate crisscross the globe, and people mourn and wonder what else they can do.
Do you feel your shoulders inching toward your ears in a shrug? Do you find yourself less and less surprised when violence against Black people erupts? The Prophet Jeremiah struggled and railed to bring a message of condemnation and restoration. He was so upset by the state of things that people called him the Weeping Prophet. He wanted people to stop hurting children. He wanted people to notice how the violence they acted out on children had roots in the disconnection that they experienced from themselves, from their own values, from their own God.
Calling out this violence got old pretty fast. Jeremiah felt that people didn’t really listen to his message. Instead, he felt like a laughingstock.
You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it.
You were too much for me.
And now I’m a public joke.
They all poke fun at me.
Every time I open my mouth
I’m shouting, “Murder!” or “Rape!”
And all I get for my God-warnings
are insults and contempt.
But if I say, “Forget it!
No more God-Messages from me!”
The words are fire in my belly,
a burning in my bones.
I’m worn out trying to hold it in.
I can’t do it any longer!
(Jeremiah 20:7, 8, The Message)
In other words, having to call out the violence in his society was exhausting for Jeremiah. He didn’t want to do it anymore. Maybe you can relate to that too. You work against racist violence and are getting worn out. Part of what Jeremiah’s story offers is the recognition that these are reasonable human feelings related to the way resources of time, energy, and fortitude have to be replenished from time to time.
If life, if human experience were an hour-long sitcom, the next thing that would happen is that God would give Jeremiah a rousing pep talk with trumpets and violins swelling. Fortunately, the God of Jeremiah’s story was complex, engaging with real humanity and not a projected idea. Consider that the God in Jeremiah’s story was just as over it as Jeremiah.
“[D]on’t enter a house where there’s mourning. Don’t go to the funeral. Don’t sympathize. I’ve quit caring about what happens to this people.” God’s Decree. “No more loyal love on my part, no more compassion. The famous and obscure will die alike here, unlamented and unburied.” (Jeremiah 16:5-7, The Message)
What does it mean for us to grapple with the resignation of the fed-up God? One essential thing is for you to know that when you are fed-up, it doesn’t mean that you never can rest and then begin again. It is urgent for you to know that your experience of reaching your limit and of questioning all your work, you are not outrageous. You are not a weirdo. Reaching a place of resignation might even be a natural phase of the work.
There are two things that are important for us to remember when we reach this stage. One is that resignation doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
After Jeremiah’s upset, after God’s resignation, Cod reminds Jeremiah that much more is possible.
“‘I’ll turn things around . . .
I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes.
The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations;
the mansions will be splendid again.
Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows;
laughter will spill through the doors.
Things will get better and better.
Depression days are over.
They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish.
The days of contempt will be over.
They’ll look forward to having children again,
to being a community in which I take pride.”
The people have come to a point in which they are unlinked from violence. God points out all kinds of changes that will take place. Sometimes it seems as the America could never get to that point. Princess Buttercup and Westley in the Princess Bride address this challenge upon entering the Fire Swamp.
Buttercup: We’ll never survive.
Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.
There are many things we haven’t yet done. We haven’t disarmed police. We haven’t shut down the prison industrial complex. We haven’t ensured that every Black person in this country has a chance to survive and thrive. The Weeping Prophet and the Fed Up God remind us that more is possible that it only seems impossible because no one’s ever done it yet. We can.