I try to share from my heart, things I’ve read, things I’ve experienced, not to preach at or down to anyone but simply to say “I’ve been through this, maybe you’ve gone through or are going through something similar. Let’s walk the path together.” At least, that’s my hope. Sharing our stories, I’ve found, brings freedom, enlivens us who are despairing and equips us to continue on this journey with Christ in this world. Many have done this with me over the years, and I am so thankful for them. It may sound cliche, but I honestly don’t know where I would be right now if it hadn’t been for the countless people who continue to walk alongside me.
There have been a couple times where, even though I had that group of people, I felt as though I were in exile. That group of people that supports me, prays for me, listens to me and gently helps me see where the Spirit is in the midst of my struggle, most of those people don’t live close to me. Technology affords me the ability to interact and engage with them. And, for that, I’m thankful. But there is something to be said about having people nearby. I mean physically near by, close enough to have a face to face cup of coffee or commune over a micro brew. To be able to see the body language, eye contact and the occasional hug speak make up a conversation so much more than just a dialog made up of words.
Exile, or the feeling of exile, is hard. The feeling that the world as you know it is against you. Perceived or real, it’s hard, it’s sad, it’s a horrible feeling of aloneness. Two years ago was such a year for Iris and I. I felt alone, in exile, with no one truly understanding what I was feeling and what I was perceiving. There were one or two people who were physically there to listen and be with me in that. But, most of “my people” where thousands of miles away so very distant from what was going on in my world. Yet, God still had them in my life. I felt alone but I never felt abandoned. For almost a year, it seemed as though my exile was increasing in intensity. Iris and I had each other and we had our people, but that feeling of being in exile, an outcast and rejected was there and more overpowering than my people at times.
I was journaling one day and decided to draw out what I was feeling. I later recounted to my spiritual director the image I had so crudely drawn. I was on top a hill, looking out to the valley and the village by the sea. But I was surrounded by forest in every direction, fog settling in and no clearly marked path. I saw the village, a Zion maybe, but I had no earthly idea how to get from where I was to that place. I felt like I was in exile. I could have chosen certain paths to remove myself, my family from the pain I was feeling (quit, slander, gossip, etc), but that would not get me to that village by the sea I drew. Instead, Iris and I continued to follow God’s leading by staying in the fog, moving ever so slowly down the hill. I felt as though I was in exile, abandoned on the edge of civilization when in fact I was being pressed to the center where God was. I was being pressed into deeper communion with Him.
The Pulitzer Prize winning poet and novelist William Faulkner once wrote “It’s hard believing, but disaster seems to be good for people.” Everyday we are given a set of choices from rolling over and hitting snooze to whether we should run that red light because it will get us somewhere faster. Some choices are bigger than others and what may seem small to one person may be a monumental decision to another. And the same holds true for those moments we are in disaster, in exile or in crisis.
We are given choices as to how to work through, move forward or simply engage with the situation we find ourselves in. When we are in exile, again perceived or real, it feels like a catastrophic disaster. But it is in those times we have a choice to either allow ourselves to be pressed to the center where God is, or to excuse ourselves from stepping deeper into Him. Some times this is pressing into the exile, sometimes it is accepting and sitting in it and sometimes it is removing ourselves from it. Depends on what God is leading you to do.
Whatever He is leading, if we are being pressed to the center where He is, we will never be abandoned, crushed or destroyed. That is a true promise of His. I’d like to say that in that time of exile that I followed His leading in every choice, but you know that’s not true. I am a fallen human saved by grace. But I can say that in the times that I did follow His leading I was never alone. I still had my people that God had so divinely and timely placed in my path, no matter how close or far away they were. And regardless of them, Jesus was always present. Maybe He wasn’t revealing everything He was doing at one time, but He was guiding my next footsteps even if it was one at a time. After a long time of leaning into the exile and sitting in it, He led us out of it. But it was hard. It was depleting.
I say all of this to simply share a bit of my journey and past. Not from a desire for someone to look at me and say “oh look at this holy chap.” No, I am the worst of these. I share this for those who might feel as though they’re in exile that you may know you are not alone. Others have gone done a similar path and were not crushed, abandoned nor destroyed. My prayer is that you won’t be either. He is a God of peace.
be blessed today