This is what the Lord…says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon…
Build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce…You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.”
This passage, titled “A letter to the Exiles” held a promise that the Israelites would come back home. But it also gave the instruction to make a home where they were.
God knew they would pine for Jerusalem, but didn’t want them to hold themselves back, contained and disconnected in Babylon. They had been forced there and that was bound to come with some baggage, but they were going to live there for SEVENTY years! They needed permission to make some peace with that and settle.
It is not good for human beings to try to remain portable and ready to pick up and move for seventy years. It is hard on us when we’re transplanted, but it is even harder when we refuse to put roots down in our new soil.
And so God challenged them to settle in the place they were, while still holding before them hope of the place they were meant for.
They didn’t have to give up on Jerusalem, it was going to happen, they were going to come back home and be restored and rescued and be close with their God again. But it wasn’t going to happen for a long time, so He gave them some short-term things to work toward, too: gardens, homes, marriage, kids, grandkids. He gave them things to enjoy while they waited and told them to pray for the land they were in, not just the land they were looking forward to.
The other day, a friend and I were discussing difficult seasons where you are not where you want to be yet, or maybe not where you want to be at all, and how you can spend the whole time just waiting for the next move. Sometimes a new season can feel like an arranged marriage, and the heart needs time to learn to love. It’s good to give ourselves that time, but also necessary to give our hearts permission.
I’ve struggled in Spokane for a long time, struggled with all the things I didn’t like and all that I didn’t understand about what was next. I struggled moving from the Sunshine State to a place where it gets dark at 3:30 in the afternoon and where winter reigns far past it’s welcome. But this year, I’m planting a garden. I set up a waterfall in my yard. I went hiking and saw a moose. I’m noticing the mist in the pine trees.
We’re leaving in 9 months. And yet, I don’t feel like I will lose what I have finally invested. I don’t have to hold it back, for it will be beauty I have thoroughly enjoyed that I can pass on to the next person who comes to call this space home. As I settle in and forge new routines and cultivate beauty, I find those efforts so much more refreshing and worthwhile than I expected. It’s not because the results will last forever, but because they help me rest, enjoy, and be where I am, even as I look forward. It is okay for me to know I will move on to a new home, and still decide to make it home where I am right now.
I am not only on my way to somewhere.
I am here.
Help me to give the timeline to you and breathe out and breathe in and look around and call this home and thank you for it.
Help me to do this instead of growing frustrated as I pine for a place that may happen someday, but where I cannot be now – as I strain for how I’d like things to be, but constantly face my inability to control what is – as I lean forward toward who I want to be, but cannot speed up the progress.
When I decide firmly to believe what you have to say, it is such a relief from all the stress I carry. And daily you beckon me to the cross, to lay it down again and remember that I don’t have to be someone I’m not, I don’t have to be somewhere I’m not. You have only asked me to come to you and be right here. You have designed me to need breaks, to need roots, to need rest, to need you. And those needs come with your permission, those needs lead to the beautiful.
It is a sweet gift to have permission to rest, to know I am allowed to be here and this is allowed to be home. Help me not to miss it.
2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.[a] 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest…this rest has been ready since he made the world…So there is a special rest[f] still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest…