Hard Seasons: Staying

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
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.

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If your situation isn’t ideal, if you have hopes and dreams for the future, if things aren’t bad but could be better, if you feel like life is mundane or boring or stagnant, then staying where you are can be really tough. It can feel like life has stalled and that time is being wasted. You may wonder when, or if, you will move forward again.

I knew this time last year that I couldn’t stay in the situation I was in. It was toxic and painful. But I also knew that I was stuck until at least after Christmas. I had to stay in Florida, where I really didn’t love living, at a job where I was facing poor treatment every single day, and we had to figure out a new place to live with new jobs. My husband and I started searching and we knew this would take time. Until something new happened, we had to stay put.

In this week’s scripture text the prophet Jeremiah speaks to the exiles in Babylon to deliver the hard truth that an early return back home was false hope. Instead, these displaced people would have to stay put for a while. God was sending a message for them to build homes, grow families, and plant gardens right where they were. The exiles had broken hearts from losing their homes; their situation was not a happy one. But God wanted them to keep living, to persevere, and to resist. Their lives weren’t over, God had a plan. But they had to stay in the foreign land for the time being and live their lives there.

round silver colored wall clock
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While my husband and I were waiting to leave Florida, we kept living while we were there. After returning from Christmas vacation, I knew January would bring changes. We had to leave as fast as we could. And things started moving quickly on a professional level. We had an exit plan. But we still had some time to wait before it all came to fruition. So January through March we traveled across the state to different cities on the weekends as a way to escape, but also take advantage of living in a state that was new to us. We couldn’t abandon our hobbies or sit around miserable while we were waiting. We had to stay, but we had to keep living.

If you’re in a hard season of staying where you are, waiting for something new or better to happen, keep living. Do things that nourish your soul. Don’t put your life on hold just because things aren’t ideal. Staying put doesn’t mean staying still. Go and live.

Lent Week 3

Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

 

 

It’s interesting seeing lectionary texts this week that talk about refreshment, food, satisfaction, and being filled, considering that it is the third week of Lent and we should be in the middle of our disciplines, practices, fasting, and abstaining (see also Isaiah 55.)  However these passages come from a Lenten space, a place of lack and desire. The Psalmist’s soul thirsts and his flesh faints for God and the rich, satisfying provision of God’s steadfast love. The Psalmist is reaching out from a place of scarcity to be filled with nourishment and praise.

Sometimes we go into Lent with ambitious intentions of taking on or giving up something, but we’re not always sure what our end goal will be. How are we hoping to grow? Where do we need healing? While we are in our Lenten season, let us learn from the Psalmist to identify where in our lives we find ourselves thirsting and fainting. Where are we aching, parched, and empty? If we take a moment to assess ourselves spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally, and mentally we can see where in our lives we can invite God to satisfy those places that lack the care we need.

Waiting on My Real Life to Begin

Scrubs is my favorite show (at least I think so…The Office is an extremely close second.) One of those heart-string-pulling episodes is when one of the patients named Elaine comes in needing a heart transplant. The main character, JD, is caring for her as her doctor. He likes her company, her pluck, and her zest for life. Unfortunately, Elaine doesn’t survive as her heart gives out. As they are trying to resuscitate her, JD, who is known for a vivid imagination, envisions her singing “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hays in a ball gown.

“Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon
I’ll stand on the bow, feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down down down, on me
And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
But don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin”

At the end of the song, she disappears and her body reappears on the bed as the doctors stop life-saving efforts and the sound of her flat line cuts into the silence.

woman wearing blue denim jacket putting her right arm on her cheek
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Scrubs can make me laugh and cry in the same episode. And this happens in almost every episode. That show makes me feel like I can face anything, so it makes sense that this song would come to mind when I need some strength.

I’m at the edge of everything changing, and my future is unknown. I always feel like I’m waiting for something to click in my life, to feel settled and right. I’m used to having a plan about what’s coming next; right now I have no plan.

I posted a while ago about continually feeling like I was in a liminal space (a place of transition, uncertainty, and waiting), even though I was supposed to be getting settled. Now that I find myself in a place of transition again, that makes perfect sense; I was never meant to be settled where I am now. I was in a liminal space that was always meant to be just that.

I just don’t know what that means now. I don’t know what it’s meant to lead to. I’m stepping off the edge of solid ground, and I sure hope that something catches me. Maybe I’ll settle there? I’d like to think so. But we’ll see. I’m waiting on my real life to begin. I’ve been waiting for a long time now. It’s time.

When You’re Stuck

I am waiting on news. And decisions. And opportunities. And emails. And phone calls. And for this cough to go away.

In the mean time, my mind is tapped out. I’m struggling to journal, to read, to write, to create. I have projects in the works that have come to a stand still.

I can’t move forward. I am stuck.

I have had all these plans that I do not have the mental capacity to complete at the moment. I have a stack of books that I don’t have the energy to read.

To take a scripture out of context:

Isaiah 40:31

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint. 

 

In Sunday school this past Sunday we talked about the word “hope” in scripture. Yakhal “to wait”, or Qavah “to wait with tension” in Hebrew. Waiting or tense expectations. Elpis in Greek. Hoping in scripture means waiting for God, sometimes expectation with tension and anticipation, and waiting with hope based on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Often this means there’s nothing to indicate that things will get better, but choosing to wait for God to act and move anyway. We learned this from a great resource:  The Bible Project “Hope”

Hope is waiting for God to act without any evidence that circumstances will improve. Now to put the scripture back into context:

Isaiah 40:1-2, 6-11, 21-23, 28-31

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

God’s people had been exiled by Babylon, and this is the first message of hope in what is known as Second Isaiah. This is the transitional portion of the book of Isaiah when the end of the exile is near and the prophetic message is one of a brighter future. After such misery and suffering in exile, the people of Israel felt defeated and perhaps forgotten. But the prophet’s job was to speak God’s words of judgement, followed by renewal, forgiveness and restoration. They had endured the judgment, but restoration was coming. There was a political shift occurring, and this created unease as it always does. There’s no way to know if things would get worse, or if things could possibly be worse than they were. But the prophet was bringing a message of hope, of waiting with tense expectation, that the everlasting God was moving and had not forgotten them. It didn’t look good right then in that moment, but the prophet was inviting them to just wait and see what God would do.

round analog clock
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There are no revelations happening to me right now to help inspire me, move me forward, and break out of my slump. I keep looking, praying, and waiting.

Maybe you’re waiting for something, too. Maybe you need a word or a message, but there aren’t any prophets appearing in your wilderness. I’m right there with you.

I will choose to hope and to wait. There’s no evidence pointing toward a clear path to a brighter future. But I’ll lean into the expectation that God renews those that wait.