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I am reading a book about Jeremiah, and in that, the description ‘creative constancy’ is applied to the prophet. (‘Run With the Horses’, Eugene Peterson) That phrase intrigues me. It’s an oxymoron, a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. ‘Creative’ has the connotation of freshness, newness, difference; ‘constancy’ has the connotation of repetition, faithfulness, things being the same. How do these two things combine in one person? We are used to thinking of them as opposites: can they really be integrated?
Jeremiah proves to us that they can. Jeremiah (one of my favourite Biblical characters) spoke out the word of the Lord faithfully for years, a word that was highly unpopular as it was a word of judgment. In Jer 25:3, he says, ‘For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.‘ There’s definitely an element of constancy there! It must have been hugely discouraging at times to be speaking this word, only to have people mock him, oppose him and even ultimately imprison him, but nothing deterred Jeremiah from sticking to his God-given task.
Because the word he brought was so unpopular and because he lived at the time when Israel was threatened with exile (which eventually happened towards the end of the book), Jeremiah has become associated with lament, weeping, pain and sorrow: not a very appetising mix, we may feel. But it would be wrong to categorise Jeremiah as all doom and gloom, with no creativity. Instead, Jeremiah learned to seek the Lord each day and report His word with freshness and vivid imagery (see Jer 2:20-25). He was ‘not stuck in a rut; he was committed to a purpose.’ (ibid., P 113) There is power and force in his creative words; there is nothing tepid or stale about Jeremiah’s message.
Creative constancy seems to me to be the aim of every Christian. We serve a God of creativity and are made in His image, so there is the scope for freshness, innovation, a ‘new thing’ in all we do. We also serve a God whose faithfulness endures for all generations (Ps 100:5) and therefore are called to perseverance, faithfulness, constancy. May the apparent contradictions in this phrase startle others and prove to be a conversation-opener, leading us to talk of the creativity and constancy of the God we serve.