Lessons From a Slice of Life Story: How To Live Well in Exile

I read the Book of Jeremiah over the past year from the paraphrase The Message by Eugene Peterson alongside Peterson’s book Run with the Horses, an excellent tool for gleaning truths from the life of the prophet. Sharing a “slice of life” story from Jeremiah seems like a good place to end 31 Days of Writing Story. (Read the entire series here.)

Just as He does for us, God had a plan for Jeremiah’s life long before he was born.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Jeremiah ~ by Father Vladimir

Despite these words from God, Jeremiah protested that he was too young, he didn’t know how to speak. But God put words in his mouth and led him to an understanding of what those words could mean to his people. Then, he promised to stand with him in the battles that would surely come. Jeremiah served God for 60 years. God kept His promise.

In his role as prophet, Jeremiah often had to deliver difficult messages to his people. 500 years before the coming of the Messiah, God’s people were forced into exile in Babylon. In a letter to the captives, recorded in Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah urged those waiting for deliverance to hold fast to hope, to believe that God would keep his promises. Jeremiah’s letter to the captives make God’s directive clear.

 

 

“The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, sends this message to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: Build homes and plan to stay; plant vineyards, for you will be there many years. Marry and have children, and then find mates for them and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Don’t dwindle away!  And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:4-7

Do you sometimes feel as if you are in exile? In this world, often we find ourselves where we don’t want to be, waiting on answers and action from God. Reading these few short verses, a message from God through Jeremiah, inspired the question:

How can we be good stewards of our lives when we find ourselves in a time of exile?

Peterson’s book on Jeremiah examines God’s directives for how to not only endure exile, but to live well. I think it comes down to attitude, so I’ve gleaned my own set of directives:

Four “Be Attitudes” from Jeremiah for Living Well
  1. Be Content: God told His followers to make themselves at home in a foreign land, to live well in the place where they found themselves. Build homes and plan to stay, he said. In other words, take the gifts and circumstances you’ve been given and make the most of them. Be who God created you to be, finding contentment in your role rather than striving to be someone else. Live – and create – as well as you are able with the skills God has given you in the place He has put you.
  2. Be Productive: Plant vineyards, for you will be there many years, continues God. We are to enter into the rhythms of the seasons and become a productive part of the economy of wherever we find ourselves. Pay attention to the world around you, do the work and look for ways to contribute. God has given you the tools. Use them. To do less would be to deny God’s calling on your life. Could it be that all God wants from us as creative, resourceful creatures is simply to bear fruit, to plant and harvest and share the fruits of your labor?
  3. Be Generous: Marry and have children, and then find mates for them and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Don’t dwindle away! As Peterson explains it, “You cannot be the person God wants you to be if you keep yourself aloof from others. That which you have in common is far more significant than what separates you. Your task as a person of faith is to develop trust and conversation, love and understanding.” In his spiritual memoir “Have a Little Faith”, author Mitch Albom says his Rabbi, Albert Lewis, once gave a sermon in which heaven and hell were shown to a man. In hell, people sat around a banquet table full of exquisite meats and delicacies, but their arms were locked in front them and they unable to partake for eternity. “This is terrible,” the man said. “Show me heaven.” He was taken to another room which looked remarkably the same. Another banquet table, more meats and delicacies. The souls there also had their arms out in front of them. The difference was, they were feeding each other. Be generous.
  4. Be Prayerful, Humble and Kind:  (This sounds like a popular country song, doesn’t it? “Always be Humble and Kind”) God’s last directive to those in exile was to make themselves at home, to work for the country’s welfare and to pray for Babylon’s well-being, and to work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. While we are not being held captive in a foreign country, we are captive in our earthly lives. We can live deeply with the same attitude. Thank God for the gifts He has given you and put them to good use. Pray for others, offering them encouragement and support.

Here is the promise God gives Jeremiah to share with his people at the end of His directives. Perhaps these words will give you hope when you find yourself in a place of exile:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. Jeremiah 29:11-13

~~~~~~~~~~

DO TELL! ~ Thanks for joining me on this #Write31Days adventure! It’s been fun and I hope you’ve found words here that have brought inspiration and encouragement for telling your “slice of life” stories. Please accept the gift of a FREE e-book to help you capture and share life stories.

Just click on the photo at left to download.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *