I’ve been talking so much about exile lately; it seems like it’s a constant theme with me and my friends. Not only was it a theme for folks in the 1st century, it’s an applicable concept today.
So we find ourselves in places where everything we thought we knew about the world is no longer important, and we have to simply put one foot in front of the other and trust that somehow we’ll get through it and somehow God has not deserted us in the midst of it.
But surprising things happen in exile.
Life, for instance, goes on (this may or may not be good news to you).
Though it seems like eternity, in most cases “exile” doesn’t go on forever. There is a time when God says, “Come home,” and we enter into rest.
It’s in those times that we realize that exile can prepare us for rest.
I was reading this the other day, and I thought about life in exile:
“When the LORD changed Zion’s circumstances for the better, it was like we had been dreaming.
Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter; our toungues were filled with joyful shouts.
IT was even said, at that time, among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them!”
Yes, the LORD has done great thigns for us, and we are overjoyed.
LORD change our circumstances for the better, like dry streams in the desert waste!
Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
Let those who go out, crying and carrying their seed, come home with joyful shouts, carrying bales of grain!” (Psalm 126)
Here’s the deal about exile: rain keeps falling, the sun keeps shining, and that means even when you can’t see it or feel it, things may still be growing.
Exile may feel like a kind of death to you; a kind of barrenness, and it may be tempted to give up hope and embrace nihilism and cynicism. It may be tempting to surrender to the darkness and begin to burn and destroy, since everything seems empty and worthless.
But it also may be a time of planting, so that when you “return home” you find that things have grown up that you can now enjoy.
So what can it look like?
- Maybe it starts with being able to say at some place in your soul, “The LORD has done great things for us.” Somewhere, sometime in the past God has spoken good things for you. He will again.
- Ask yourself, “What can I plant right now? Assuming that someday I will come out of this with a harvest, what do I want that to look like?
Maybe the seed is a friendship that you build into or rely on.
Maybe it’s the effort to pray—maybe the Lord’s prayer or something—once a day.
Maybe it’s to read the Bible in some kind of systematic fashion.
Maybe it’s to invest in serving some folks who have really immediate, physical needs.
All of these things are seeds.
And the thing about seeds is that most of the time, you don’t really see any fruit or anything worth harvesting for a long time.
But even while you are in exile, the sun shines and the rain falls.
And someday, someday when you come home again, you’ll find that there’s a harvest to pick up and carry home.