The bookmark in Sunday’s handout has a list of ideas for praying for this city we’re calling home for today. And I do mean, “Today,” because I’ve given up trying to plan next week. Besides, isn’t that all we’re promised? Just Today?
My eyes drift across the bullet points, catching on the verse scrawled across the top,
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and beseech the Lord on its behalf. For in its welfare you will also have welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
We all love and gush over that other verse in the chapter, you know, the one that says Abba has plans to do us good rather than harm, to have hope because He has a future mapped out for us? But we’ve turned that into this American Dream Slogan, like God is promising each of us a white picket fence in a nice neighborhood, with children who never get sick and friends who never betray.
What if the good we have in mind is different from the good God has in mind?
What if we’re waiting around for mansions and Maseratis, when God is more interested in holiness and soul-winning? And those neighbors, what if they’re actually the enemy rather than our best friends? And what if that good coming our way is dependent on seeking the prosperity of those people who hate us?
You hear God telling a whole tribe of exiled children that the blessing, the prospering, the good plans come about when they seek the good, the prospering, the blessing of that foreign land.
Dragged from their homes, their fields, their neighborhoods, they were marched off to a place that didn’t like them and didn’t care about them. Ripped from comfort, from community, from what felt right, these Israel children are supposed to do all that they can to bring prosperity and abundance to this foreign land. To bless the land that hates them.
We’re facing the largest refugee problem our world has seen since probably these ancient Hebrew exiles and I’m wondering if there’s a connection.
People are fleeing evil, flooding into any country that will take them, and even the ones that won’t. They probably know that we’re nervous, that governments and grandmas alike are wrestling with how to welcome the stranger without a home while still having eyes-wide opened to the reality that wolves lurk in sheep’s clothing. Trying to practice being wise as serpents while still innocent as doves.
And I’m no refugee but this season of being a nomad, of home being wherever I am today, it leaves me feeling a bit worn at the edges, craving for a place to put down roots and just be. Because how long has that been the answer when someone asks what they can pray for? “A Home Base.”
But I’m a person of the Cross before I’m a person of Comfort and those people braving drowning and rejection for the possibility of home, some of them are people of the Cross too. So we’re sisters and brothers in the same boat, just different waters.
Because aren’t we all refugees? Aren’t we all exiles in a foreign land, refugees looking for home, looking to go home?
What did that broken, bruised and beaten up Jesus-follower write, that we’re looking to a home that we haven’t yet seen because this world isn’t our own? Yeah, it feels like that some days more than others. But usually I’m just craving that place to put my stuff, to hang up my pictures, cook with my kitchen supplies and order things my way.
I’m slow and it takes me a while to understand when Abba is trying to speak, but I don’t think that’s what home is.
When I’m following a Carpenter who said He didn’t have any place to lay His Head, when the chosen people wandered for 40 years waiting, aching for that Promised Land, you can bet “home” means something different to Him than it does to us. We’re following a long-line of nomads, of exiles and refugees and is it any wonder we feel restless? No matter how much we try to create a place of our own, to put down roots, there’s still a whisper for something more. An ache for “home” that doesn’t seem filled.
Because Home isn’t this side of Heaven. And it’s hard to remember that when the comfort starts making us complacent, and the TV is blaring another 10 ways to fix this bathroom or redo that kitchen to be the dream realized.
I keep waiting to arrive at that “home base,” before I’ll get involved, before I’ll cultivate relationships or connect to the city. Because what’s the point in getting to know a place, a people if you’re just going to leave again?
But what if that “home base” is 40 years of desert wandering away? Do we keep waiting, keep withholding, keep excusing our disconnect, our lack of caring? What if we think it’s just 6 months and it becomes 10 years?
Seek the welfare wherever you are, for however long you’re there, is the whispered answer. So you’re there for three months. Pray for that city, for that neighborhood. It’s one night that you’re staying over for work? Pray for that city, for that hotel, for those people you’re rubbing shoulders with for 24 hours.
So you’re on that Earth for a lifetime and it’s dirty, and it’s painful and exhausting? Seek the welfare of it.
Work for its prosperity, pray for its redemption and push against darkness wherever you’ve been placed. Even when that city, that country hates everything you stand for, running roughshod over what you know is good and right and true. Pursue the welfare of it.
Because we’re all waiting for home, waiting for that Promised Land and it may be a long time coming. But when it does, it’ll feel like no time at all and He’ll be asking what we did in that land where we were exiles.
Maybe it was helping out the other refugees looking for a Home as well. Blessing those who persecuted and seeking the welfare, rather than the downfall of our temporary home.