“Mama, you know how Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit? If someone isn’t a Christian, do you think they are filled with evil spirits?”
“Well darlin’, it’s one or the other.”
One or the other. A choice. That’s where I was.
I was lost as a goose without Mama. I wish there was a prettier way to write it – something more profound. But I was just lost. Floundering. Grieving. Homesick and feeling like an exile (Exiled – to be away from one’s home). I had to make a choice. Would I camp here in my misery and grief? Or would I live the life God had called me to live.
I had to decide. I could exist here in exile, throwing a huge pity party and missing Mama, or I could follow the prophet Jeremiah’s advice on how to live as an exile.
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NLT)
God is telling the exiles to accept their captivity. They weren’t going home any time soon. They needed to make homes for themselves. To live as exiles, we must do the same. Like tenants in rental houses, we need to make this earth as much our home as we can. Plan to stay, get comfortable; but know this is not our permanent home.
The exiles in Babylon were encouraged to build families in order to keep the Jewish blood line from becoming extinct. We also need to build our families and friendships. Doing this will establish close relationships here. Get to know your neighbors and co-workers. Tell them about your real home. Share with them the hope we have. Be a part in keeping God’s kingdom growing.
We need to go where God sends us, and grow where He plants us.
We also need to pray for the cities where the Lord has sent us into exile. Pray for peace in your city. Pray for prosperity in your city.
Why do we need to do all this? I certainly didn’t feel like it, after Mama’s death. I felt like a four year old, about to throw a temper tantrum: arms crossed and bottom lip pouting. I didn’t want to make myself at home and build relationships, much less pray for my city. Why did I have to do all this?
Because the exiles were the best of the best.
2 Kings 24:14-15 (NLT) King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land. Nebuchadnezzar led King Jehoiachin away as a captive to Babylon, along with the queen mother, his wives and officials, and all Jerusalem’s elite.
All of Jerusalem’s elite were taken into exile. The Babylonians didn’t hesitate to use the best of God’s people to help build and strengthen their land.
As God’s people, temporarily exiled here on earth, we are to be shining examples to the world. The wheat among tares, the silver floating above the dross. We are to glorify God and shine His light in all that we do.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky” Philippians 2:14-15 (GNT)
It’s a choice we make. One or the other. Walk intimately with Jesus, be the best we can in His strength and shine His light. Or blend into the world…
What choice are you making?
To read Part 1, click here: Stranger
To read Part 2, click here: Sojourner
Photography by John Chauvin