Posted: 5/20/20 at 4:00pm. Written by Leslie Park.
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, NRSV
I remember, as a young adult, constantly dreaming and scheming and worrying about what came next in my life. Maybe you did, too. When we were in high school, we thought about college or career after graduation, and what that would be like. In college we thought about what career path we would follow.
Once we got settled in a career path, we would start to think about what it would look like for us to marry and begin a family, have children…
It felt like always being in a state of waiting for what comes next.
I imaging that is what the children of Israel felt like in Babylon as exiles. They wanted what came next. They wanted to get back to Jerusalem where God lived. They wanted to get back to the way things were.
Sound familiar? These last 10 weeks have been strange and scary and unsettling. And sometimes we just want things to be back the way they were–back before this pandemic disrupted our lives–back to normal.
But if you hear God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah, God wants those in exile to live in the moment. God tells them to build houses to live in, plant gardens, get married, live life in your present circumstance–because that is where God is!
Are we missing the blessing of living in the present? Can we see God with us in the midst of what we are experiencing right now? God is not waiting for things to “get back to normal.” God has never waited until things have gotten back to normal. God continues to encourage us to live in the moment.
Planning for what the future will look like is important to those of us called to lead God’s people, but not at the expense of what God is doing and can do right now in the uncertainty.
My prayer is Pastor of Warsaw Baptist Church in Warsaw, VA.