What is the difference between exercising the gift of prophecy and being a prophet? I believe that anyone can receive divine insight and revelation if they are open to it and it is a gift the church needs to remain attentive to God’s plans and purposes. However, to be a prophet is a unique and troubling calling. This is because it is not just about speaking out the message God has laid on your heart but a prophet actually becomes the message. It is not a job you shed when you get home at night and take off your uniform or tools of the trade. Hosea was commanded by God to marry a prostitute to symbolise Israel’s unfaithfulness and Isaiah gave his sons some bizarre names (Isaiah 8:3) to reinforce the word God was speaking to his people! This is why Jesus is the ultimate prophet, “…the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”
A couple of years ago I had to write a personal mission statement for the mission spirituality module on the pioneer mission leadership training course I am doing with CMS. I revisited it this week and was struck by what a difficult calling I have and how unfair it is that I can’t pick and choose where and when I exercise it! In this short articulation of who I am and what God requires of me, I talked about being a pearl in the oyster. Here is found beauty and value but it is only formed out of the discomfort caused by grit under the shell. Suffering depression has caused me to experience firsthand the good and pure that is forged out of the pain and struggle of facing your demons in the darkness and desolation of a barren internal world. And in the same way I don’t enjoy grappling with my own shit, I really don’t delight in making others feel ill at ease either. But I cannot, will not, stay silent and remain content with the way things are when I know that God’s desire is for something so much more creative, life-giving and satisfying. It is unfortunate but it is true that getting beyond the status quo to the abundant life God wants for us requires confronting the defence mechanisms and addictions which have numbed us to the reality of our brokenness and the distorted view we have of God and his creation.
Sometimes I get on my face and beg that it weren’t so because it feels it is not the message that is being rejected but me! I am blameworthy of the discomfort my provocation brings and it would be easier to keep quiet, withdraw into my shell. Yet, like Jeremiah, I feel compelled to point out the disparity between what is and what could be because I care so passionately and hope so desperately. However, reading Isaiah 45 I came across a sobering response to my desire to relinquish my vocation, “I’ve singled you out, called you by name, and given you this privileged work…I form light and create darkness, I make harmonies and create discords…I, God, generate all this. But doom to you who fight your Maker- you’re a pot at odds with the potter! Does clay talk back to the potter: ‘What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!…Are you telling me what I can and cannot do? I made the earth, and I created man and woman to live on it.” God doesn’t just live in the light but forms darkness. He doesn’t only smooth things over but where appropriate makes waves. Like Job before me, who then am I to question Him and his ways? So I will once again allow his love to heal my wounds, his faith in choosing me stiffen my resolve and his strength in this earthen vessel give me the hope and courage to keep doing his bidding as I rev up to go lob another grenade!