I am repeating a blog post written during my hospital stay at the Cleveland Clinic six months ago. This was one of my spiritual insights from the time. I thought the six-month anniversary of the beginning of that stay would be a good time to repeat the post and add an update at the end.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “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.” (Jeremiah 29:4-9 NIV)
I had gotten to the book of Jeremiah in my Bible-in-a-year reading plan when this hospital journey began. By this time of the year, I should be in the book of Revelation. Those of you familiar with the Bible know that I have missed a few days reading this year.
Jeremiah was a prophet during Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It was a terrible time for the people of Judah. The Kings of Judah and most of the people hated Jeremiah. They wanted good news from God. They wanted to hear that Nebuchadnezzar would fail and the city would not be captured. But, Jeremiah continued to speak the words God gave him, condemning Judah for their idolatry and predicting the city’s defeat. In the end, he was proven true.
There were several run-ins with Nebuchadnezzar that resulted in groups of exiles being taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. Today’s verse is a letter Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to the first wave of exiles taken to Babylon.
Over the last two weeks, I have come to see that this letter was also written to me. And, as I explain myself, you may find that it has been written to you too.
The people in Babylon were completely displaced. They longed for their homes in Jerusalem, for the Temple, the bazaars, the places they knew well, the way of life that had become comfortable for them. They hoped God would rescue them. Somehow, they would be released from Babylon, return home and get back to the old life. They would attend their daughter’s wedding, in Jerusalem. They would buy that vineyard and make wine, in Jerusalem. They would be a stone mason, in Jerusalem. They would celebrate the feasts, in Jerusalem.
But, we know today that the people reading Jeremiah’s letter would never return to Jerusalem. They would continue to live, and die, in Babylon. What’s more, it was God’s plan for them to be there. God told them:
“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.”
God is saying, “You are right where I want you. If you will be the people I have called you to be, I will work through you to bless this place and these people who would otherwise never know me. This isn’t a mistake, it’s the plan.”
Seven years ago, my health was taken to Babylon. I developed a rare auto-immune disease that has altered my life dramatically. Earlier this year, God took my career into Babylon. The company I worked for closed. These two things together have set me on a new path to develop a career that can be practiced from a hospital tray table if necessary. And, here’s the big thing I have learned over the last couple weeks, that’s OK. I agree, that’s a pretty simple lesson from nearly three weeks in the hospital. But, the simplicity doesn’t reduce the importance. Had I learned this lesson earlier, I may have avoided this experience. And, I hope by sharing this, I may help you avoid a similar experience in your life.
I have realized that, though my health and career have been taken to Babylon, I was trying to get back to Jerusalem. I wanted my old life style without breathing issues and hospital stays. I tried to live my old life and do the old things. For me, success was staying out of the hospital because, in my old life in Jerusalem, I never went to the hospital. My life in Babylon will probably include more hospital stays.
It’s the same on the job front. In Jerusalem, I had a regular job. I knew going in what I would make each week, about how many hours I would work and what I would be doing from day to day. In Babylon, I have my own business. I can do what I love to do from my office, a coffee shop, and a hospital tray table. It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed what I do as much as I enjoy it now.
My new circumstances have allowed me to meet people I would otherwise never have met. I learn from them, encourage them, and pray for their success and prosperity. Because, I know if they prosper, I prosper. I have always considered myself a man of faith, but I had built a life in Jerusalem where faith in everyday things wasn’t necessary. I had my health, no reason to rely on God for health. I had a job, no worries about daily bread. Faith could be less practical and more intellectual. There was no adventure, just following the plan.
I don’t know what other decisions I will need to make in the weeks ahead. But, the big decision has been made; I am going to live in Babylon. God will use me to build the prosperity of the new community where I live. This life will be as good as my life in Jerusalem, and in many ways, better.
UPDATE: I was released from the Cleveland Clinic on January 5th. God has blessed my law practice with continued growth. April was my best month ever and May was well ahead of last year. This summer, I am looking forward to meeting new clients and building my base. I addition to the business growth, I have had the opportunity to coach and mentor several men in their faith and career. I love working from home. My health has been generally good. April was a hard month fighting Cincinnati allergies and a light flare-up.
How can you pray for me? Thank God for sending me on this journey and how He is using me along the way. Pray for connections for me to share my vision for integrating law and faith with people who would like to work with a Christian attorney. Pray for our family that this summer will be a time of rest and renewal.
I still miss Jerusalem sometimes. But, the feelings come less often as I grow to love life in Babylon.