Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.
This verse from Jeremiah 29 has been floating around me for some time now. Pastor Jason Mangram gave a wonderful message on this pre-middle section of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jerusalem on my first Sunday home. He spoke a lot to the need for seeking God first, praying forward, and taking advantage of the situation God has you in right now rather than looking forward or backward. At the time it didn’t go quite as deep as it should have, but when I opened my Bible this morning, it was screaming.
We’ve all been deported. Think about it. The old hymn says, “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” (Did y’all sing that? I sure did – over and over again.) We’re strangers in a foreign land. We’re just here for a little while before we get back to heaven – the Promised Land.
When Jesus said “grafted in” he meant it in a big way.
Our birth was more or less our exile from God because of our sin (I know this could go crazy theologically, but bear with me) and we’re basically in Babylon right now like Judah in the book of Jeremiah.
Yes, our goal is the presence of our Savior, Jesus, in heaven, but our job is right here. In Jeremiah 29, God addresses the exiles of Judah and tells them to settle down, make babies, and seek the welfare of the city.
That’s what we should be doing right now. We’re curbside prophets with our hands in our pockets just waiting on our rocket to come (Somebody please catch that Jason Mraz reference) but what we should be doing is investing in the city we’re in – our mission field, if you will.
I mean, that’s a big statement. “…for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.” And some of us wonder why we’re struggling so much – start praying & interceding for your city. See how Boss changes things.
I’m not scared of Walmart, even though I’ve been told for at least 13 months that I would be upon arriving back in America after a worldwide adventure. I’ve been twice – once late at night and once in the morning – and had a gimp buggy both times (for anyone north of the Mason Dixon line or west of the Mississippi, please note that “buggy” is the affectionate Southern name for a shopping cart).
Walmart didn’t do it. Neither did the eight flavors of Skittles and seventeen colors of M&Ms at the CVS counter or how many drink options the QT has waiting for me at every turn of the road.
Before coming home I referred to coming home as “getting back to the real world,” but in all actuality…America isn’t the real world. It’s not even close! In the past 12 days I’ve identified three things about life in America that I just don’t understand (and for the most part don’t WANT to understand).
The first has been the concept of “me.” I’ve run into several circumstances, whether driving through Atlanta on I-75 or in conversation with a friend, where I’ve been faced with an “every man for himself” mentality. Y’all, I just don’t get this. Perhaps living and functioning with a team for eleven months changed my mind, or perhaps it’s the simple idea that God calls us to put others first. (I’m sure we’re all familiar with the J.O.Y. acronym – Jesus, Others, Yourself.) I’m no saint, to be sure, but it blows my mind how selfish American society is as a whole. There is such a defensive mentality circulating amongst us – everyone is out to hurt us, mock us, destroy us, and tarnish the image society sees of us. Friends, it is not so! And even if it were true, in whom do we place our trust? Surely not ourselves or this ambiguous “society” we find ourselves seeking approval from! Yet we operate out of fear, greed, and desperation in order to make ourselves look good and make sure we are taken care of in any given situation. Me first. Mine.
The second idea that I’ve been struggling with is consumerism and materialism. I’m a huge fan of new clothes, especially after wearing the same outfits for eleven months (with only a few added layers of variation occasionally), but my goodness I don’t need an endless supply! I also don’t need to save every piece of paper or every memorable gift (nor do I need to give them all away). It’s a matter of moderation and “can someone else benefit from this now?” I still want to buy so many new dresses and things from Loft or fill my life with new office supplies and keep things “just in case I need them,” but is it really necessary?
Finally, I’ve been overcome by how focused we are on money. I know that’s nothing new. We all need jobs to pay bills and buy food. It’s a normal part of life, but I’m running into a big problem. It’s so hard to get a job to make money without having experience, but it’s nearly impossible to get experience without having a job. Living “debt free” is best, but not having credit leaves one without the ability to get an apartment or car without having money, and then we’re back to square one. American society is ruthless compared to the rest of the world (granted, I wasn’t entering the job market in other countries).
In a recent interview I was asked why I am okay with taking a part-time job right now instead of pursuing a full-time position elsewhere. This was my answer: I know money is important – I have loans to pay off and monthly bills/needs – but money doesn’t come first. I want to be where God wants me – in the one place where I can bring the most glory to Him and make His kingdom known in the best way possible.
Y’all, I scared myself sitting there when those words came out. Mentally I said, “WHAT?!” I’ve seen God work in miraculous ways – I was able to attend an independent school with a tuition of at least 30K/year and walked away with less than one year’s tuition in loans. I just spent an entire year living out of a backpack and helping people without making an income at all. If that’s not miraculous in the financial department, I don’t know what is. BUT – I still don’t operate like God’s going to make it all work. I usually try to plan and budget my way into “just getting by” mode, but y’all, I’m tired of that. It’s time to step out and say, “I’m in it for the Kingdom” and be done with all the extra anxiety. I don’t know why I haven’t done that before.
It’s scary, but I swam with sharks once.
Small town southern life cannot be compared to any other lifestyle in the world. Believe me, after 11 months abroad, I know.
I was greeted by so many dear faces after riding those oh-so-well-known escalators in Atlanta. It was incredible (and awkward) to see my friends and family. Our adventure to Olive Garden didn’t disappoint, either. All four cars took different routes, none of them the easiest, and none of them lacking in their own hilarity. I’m thankful for these small things.
My first week at home has been full – haircuts, shopping excursions, parties, old faces for the first time again, Publix, Walmart, gas stations, and excursions with my Brudder in his truck. After church Sunday I strategically chose our lunch spot – Jalisco Grill, affectionately known as “Mexican,” because I knew some of my favorite people would be there – the Gentry family & the Rogers family. These are two of my favorite families, both of which I am an honorary member. The Rogers family includes my favorite gingers. I’ve known them since my sophomore year of high school and couldn’t love them more. The Gentry family is near and dear to my entire family’s heart. Mary & my dad go WAY BACK – to a high school that doesn’t exist anymore where MG’s mother taught my dad. She was my math teacher in high school for three years and I love nothing more than her wit and wisdom. She has emailed me through long nights in college finishing procrastinated papers, through the unexpected death of my Papa, and the wild adventures I just had. The party my mother had in my honor last Friday also included families so precious to me – the Hipps family, Mother Teresa & Big T (the parents of sweet AKJ who is in Africa bringing the Kingdom!), the Dormans, and so many more. I am truly blessed, y’all. I may not call Perry my residence for much longer, but it will definitely be “home” in my Instagram locations for a long time. It was frustrating growing up in a small town where I couldn’t get away with anything (not that I tried..much), but after being gone for so long, it is definitely a blessing to return & find so many supportive & loving people who are just as close as blood.
Needless to say, this process has been an adjustment. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. I don’t like fans.
2. Change occurs, but unless one is ripped from the environment in which it occurs and thrust rapidly into another, one does not notice.
3. Drinking American coffee doesn’t cut it anymore. I need Cafe Britt to survive.
4. I’m much more laid back than before and I enjoy it.
5. Vulgar music makes my stomach feel weird…
The coming weeks will bring so much change – potentially a job, new living arrangements, and so much more. It’s impossible to think of joining a new environment so different than anything I’ve known in the past. Honestly, I’m excited. The potential of being in my sweet Rome once more makes my heart smile. I know well enough now that each place comes with its handful of ups and downs, but I’m ready and willing.
I still know my calling. I still know what I need to do.
Carry the Name of Jesus -and that’s just what I’ll do.