I was never a good student when I was in high school. I was disinterested, disengaged, and unreasonable. My sweet mother had the privilege and misfortune of trying to convince me to apply myself and actually try. Then came my senior year, in which I had made the decision to forego college and move to Nashville after my graduation. I completely checked out. I dropped any class that wasn’t required for me to graduate, which left me with four classes that I sometimes attended. With how much school I skipped and how little work I did that year, it’s a miracle I was given a diploma.
But like I said, I was completely checked out. I dropped the ball on everything, not just school. The relationships I had with people suffered. I figured I wouldn’t see most of these people ever again. Most people didn’t know that I had moved until months later. I was in the position for, and had the responsibility, to pour into kids younger than me in the youth group I was a leader in. I guess I saw it as “I’m leaving soon anyway, it doesn’t really matter what I do anymore.” Of course, that was a lazy and immature way to look at my life in that moment.
Once in Nashville, this pattern of finishing badly repeated itself. I quit two different jobs, one being an internship at a church and the other a kitchen job. I left both without any sort of notice, follow up, conversation, or real reason to abandon ship. I saw that things weren’t going the way I wanted, and decided that there were better opportunities for me elsewhere. I was working for a non-profit around this time and the ministry that I had fallen in love with was starting to leave me disheartened and disillusioned with the work we were doing. I wanted to quit. Bad. I was tired and worn and just burned out. But something told me that I had to stay and and finish this year long commitment I had made. So I did. And it was hard. But so much good came out of staying. I learned a lot about myself in this time and looking back, I’m proud that I finished.
In Jeremiah 23, the Israelites have been in exile for a about a year. A vast majority of the influential population in Jerusalem have been taken to Babylon; meaning priests, artists, community leaders, officials, and anyone with a voice worth listening to. The king of Judah and his officials have run away to Egypt in hopes of finding support with Pharaoh. Everyone else was left behind with a puppet government to keep them in check. The Hebrew people were scattered. Jeremiah, after years of ridicule and dissension from his people, was deemed unimportant and left in Jerusalem. The Jews in exile were being led by a group of three self-proclaimed prophets. Hananiah being the main instigator, tells the people that their stay in Babylon will be short and sweet. He tells them to not even bother building homes and starting farms. He claims that they will be restored and returned to their homes in just two years. Now all of that was a lie and a vain attempt at taking hold of what little control could be had over these lost and broken people. They wanted to go home, so he gave them a false hope that their return would be even sooner than they think.
Our boy Jeremiah writes a letter from the homeland to the Jews in Babylon saying the complete opposite:
'Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their 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. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord . ‘ (Jeremiah 29:4-9 ESV)
Later on in this letter, he tells them that God promises to bring justice and vengeance against Babylon after 70 years. 70 YEARS. Most of these people will have long since died by then. What will be left is their children and the memory of their home. The legacy they leave behind will shape and determine the future of Israel. So they’re told to carry on with life and make the best of it. They’re in a country where they are captives, they don’t speak the language, the king is not their own, and they’re told to make it home for the time being. They’re being told that freedom is on the horizon. You can bet they were anxious. They know that something better is coming. But the Father tells them to make do and do it well. He tells them to pray for Babylon’s people and its welfare. They’re not just supposed to live there, they’re supposed live well.
I feel like a lot of us can get trapped in the thought that we’re just passing through and our time in a place or season doesn’t really matter. We just kind of skate through things without any sort of intentionality or purpose. I talk to people all the time who are finishing up college or leaving a job and look at it like it doesn’t matter what happens now because they’re almost done. I can relate. I’m not a very patient man. I don’t like waiting, especially when I know what I’m waiting for. But I’ve done enough to know that if something is worth doing, it’s worth seeing through to the end. Time is one of the most valuable currencies we have as humans. We only have so much of it, and we don’t know how much that actually is until its gone. So why do we waste it by half-heartedly doing things?
All throughout scripture there are examples of regular people doing hard things well by trusting God to see it through to the end. They honored Him by following His instructions and trusting Him to see His plan through to fruition. So what does that say about us when we quit the little things? Why can’t we suck it up enough deal with the uncomfortableness? What if we put a little faith in the Father to sustain us? What if we lived our lives well in this place that is not our home? What does it look like for us to finish well?