Don’t kill the messenger! In Jeremiah we hear the alarming sound of trumpets, visualize trees downed to build instruments of war, and earth moved onto a siege mound. Jeremiah warns that the people will mourn “as for an only son, most bitter lamentation,” and that grieving women will “dress in sackcloth and roll around in the ashes.” Can you picture the reactions of Jeremiah’s listeners? Do you think he put himself in a precarious position with the leaders of his day?
I’ve been in awkward experiences before where I was overwhelmed with an urge to bring my concern to others. Just last week I was in a workshop with colleagues, our supervisor, and several guests from other programs. The topic was trauma and the format consisted of showing a 45 minute DVD depicting a man who had been molested as a young boy. And though we provide services to so many people who have similar stories, counselors are not immune to the effect of what is called ‘vicarious traumatization.’ So it was disturbing to me that we were basically dismissed with minimal debriefing and without any activity to return us to a place of peace before leaving the short training to return to seeing clients that day.
In fact, the next week when the group met, I felt compelled to voice my concerns. Those who had seen the movie appeared to be in agreement, but the lady chairing the meeting was quite aggressive in her denunciation of my assertion that the problem should be addressed corporately. I’m afraid that I reacted with a combatant attitude and the meeting ended without a solution. Over the next couple of days, like Jeremiah, I prayed, “Righteous You are, O Lord, when I plead with You; You let me talk with You about Your judgments.” When I pray for God’s judgments, I always look for my own personal culpability. What is often evident in my efforts to save the world (yes, I have a savior complex – a disorder inherent in this line of work), is my knack for tromping where ‘angels fear to tread.’ This could be why I’ve heard others shouting at me, “Kill the messenger!”
However, I also found comfort in this week’s reading in Acts about Paul trying to save others on a sinking ship. He is confident that his message is from God, and he keeps telling the soldiers and sailors, “I believe God that it will be just as he said to me.” The climax of the story comes as the ship is breaking apart and the soldiers plan to kill Paul and the other prisoners. God protects Paul, the messenger of His truth, and saves the entire crew and passengers. What I am thinking from reading these passages is that the messenger is usually someone who will speak out in dire situations, probably has nothing to lose since he is sinking with the ship, too, and is in the hands of others who have the power and authority to make decisions. Sounds like me! I just pray that I will speak only when and what and how God gives me utterance.