Today’s post, we’re talking about “exile.” What a transition, huh! What you don’t know is that these are almost synonymous with each other.
But let’s get outside the “writing life” box at the moment, because really, this is pertinent to our whole lives.
Let me take you back a few years… really about twelve and a half of them. It was March, 1997 when I started my exile. I was 16 at the time, and my parents moved me away from my life in Northern Indiana to Northern Minnesota, the Ice Box of America. It’s cold there, folks, let me just say. Like… -30 degree cold at times. Yes, that is a MINUS sign there.
Needless to say, I was not pleased about this. We were also leaving my two blessed (aka highly lucky to be out of the house and not forced to move to this place for which my cousin and I coined the term “Frozen Hell”) older sisters, one of whom was getting ready to have her first baby. We moved from a 3000+ square-foot house in a nice suburban neighborhood to a one bedroom A-frame 30 minutes from the nearest gas station in which lived my parents, my little brother, myself, my aunt and uncle, my 2 younger cousins, and our 2 dogs.
Yes, 8 people and 2 dogs in a one-bedroom house.
Oh, folks, it gets better.
We got there and there was no water. NO water, I say. Why? The well had run dry. And there was 3 foot of snow on the ground. (You think I’m exaggerating… I’m not.) We spent the next 2 months melting snow to do simple tasks like… flushing the toilet, taking a sponge bath, washing dishes. I slept on couch cushions in the hallway in front of the washer and dryer while my little brother slept on the floor in my parent’s room and my cousins slept in sleeping bags under the kitchen table.
Again… I’m not exaggerating.
Thankfully, things got better after a while. Once the ground thawed, we had a new well dug, and YEAH we had water. My aunt and uncle bought a little trailer and moved into it. Eventually we built on an addition to the house and I had my own room (albeit a little rough… I still had at times ice in the corner of my floor.)
Minnesota was my exile. I complained, I ranted, I pitched a blue bloody fit almost daily. And, in most people’s opinion, I had just cause to do so. But one day, my dad sat me down and had a heart to heart with me. He read Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
My dad’s intent was to tell me that MN was God’s plan for me, and God didn’t want to harm me, but to give me a future. BLAH is all I had to say about that.
But that night, I went back and read the whole chapter, and God opened my eyes. The chapter talks about the Israelites being exiled in Babylon. They didn’t “go” to Babylon, they were “exiled” there, forced by an evil king (almost like cruel parents, except mine loved me!!) And God was telling them to, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Wow… that was huge for me y’all. God was telling me that MN was not the place he had planned for me, my future was not set there. But I had to be there, exiled, for a period of time, and while I was there, I was to be fruitful for Him. I was to live there, and seek the peace and prosperity of the place where I was. Basically, I was to be content with where he had put me, and know that He has a future outside of my exile.
So… that is what I did. Oh, I failed… many times. But I made a few friends…. I smiled as much as I could. I tried to live out my faith to the best of my ability, although I look back now and groan sometimes at my stupidity and missed opportunities.
But God was faithful, and He DID bring me out. The next summer, I met the man of my dreams in an Internet chat room of all places. We “dated” online that year, met twice, and the weekend after I graduated high school, I moved down to NC and we were married 4 months later. God was faithful, as He ALWAYS is.
Please know that I’m not saying Northern MN is a place worthy of the term “exile.” There are some truly wonderful people there, but in that time of my life, it was “my” exile.
Everyone has their own types of exile, and it doesn’t have to be a place. Sometimes it is a set of circumstances. An extended sickness, a period of joblessness, a period of just wondering where God is in your life, or just a general knowledge that you aren’t in a place God wants you to be but you are powerless to change it (i.e. it’s up to a husband/parent to do the changing…) Obviously, our writing lives can feel like an exile, (like the famous Seekerville unpubbed island!) but I want to go beyond that today, because I think it’s so so so important.
The point of this rambling isn’t to remind you that God is going to bring an end to your exile… although He will. My desire is to discuss what we do while we are there.
Are you complaining in your exile? Are you stomping your foot and refusing to be productive until God shows you the way out? Are you letting every person who comes in contact with you know how miserable you are, how unfair your exile is, how much you can’t wait until it ends, even under the guise of requesting prayer? If you are, then well, I’m sorry to tell you, you are acting like my three-year-old did in Lowe’s yesterday when she wanted to get into the “car” cart but it was time to go. And you might need exactly what she did… a good swat on your rear end to get you going. (ha!)
Because I can almost guarantee, unless we stop belly aching about our circumstances and start thriving where God put us, we’re not going anywhere. And even then… don’t expect for the relief to be immediate. It was almost 2 years after I gave up my stubbornness before God brought me out. And for the Israelites… it was 70 years.
Discussion: Are you in “exile” today? What are YOU doing about it?