I’m in a Marco Polo group of women who are reading through the Bible in a year using the Bible Recap podcast. We’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah, of which Chuck Swindoll says this:
The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well. (bold is mine)
Anybody else been feeling the weight of that last sentence?
The people of Israel were getting ready to be taken to Babylon and held captive there. The false prophets were saying the exact opposite of what Jeremiah was proclaiming…they proclaimed the exile wouldn’t last long, peace was coming etc, so Jeremiah sends a letter (chapter 29) to all the people to prepare them for what was about to go down and what they were to do in the midst of being in captivity.
In part, this is what he tells them: This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. (29:4-5CSB) claiming the exile will be long. (29:28CSB)
As I’ve mulled this verse over, I find it funny that God would tell them to do something as simple as plant a garden and eat its produce in the midst of being held captive by their enemy.
If you’ve been hanging with me for very long at all, it’s no surprise that I love to garden so at first I thought that’s why I was so drawn to this verse. But I have to say, I believe there’s more to it. That perhaps it’s a message that is helpful to us as well.
Let’s do some paralleling:
The exile (or captivity)…I know we are not being taken anywhere in the physical sense but we can sure be held captive. By our screens. By our schedules. By the 24/7 news cycles. By our 24/7 availability. By everyone’s opinions. By social media. By the need for more. By the need for bigger and better. By the need for perfection. By the need to hurry.
You get the picture. We are being held captive and sadly, we don’t even realize how heavy the chains are anymore.
The past couple of years has seen our mental health struggle…even those with no previous mental health issues. The pandemic has been hard on all of us and most everyone has an opinion they aren’t afraid to share. The political and racial unrest piles on top of an already fragile people. Not to mention the rest of the world and all its messiness.
Between the 24/7 news cycles and our 24/7 availability we have access to heartbreaking pictures, news stories, pleas, more pictures, thoughts, opinions… we are held captive by it and it just keeps going. Because this exile, this captivity we find ourselves in?
…will be long. Just like the people of Israel, this life, our life, is not a sprint but a marathon. If it’s not this, it will be that. If it’s not that, something else will come along. Just think of the past few years and you will note that it’s been one thing after the other.
What does Jeremiah tell the people to do? Plant gardens. Eat what you’ve grown.
I hear you non-gardening people groaning right now! Do you know how black my thumb is? I’ve never grown a vegetable in my entire life! I cannot add one more thing to my to do list!
I hear you!
I think it’s about more than growing a garden and eating its produce. I think God was trying to tell them (and us) to settle in because this is going to be a long haul. You cannot possibly be all things to all people or do everything that needs to be done or fix every problem or give to every person/cause/upheaval begging for help.
Beth Moore said it like this: Know when to take a break y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it.
In other words, go grow a garden, do something you enjoy doing, take a break from the 24/7, slow down and breathe! In order to take care of our whole selves and our soul selves, we must exhale what is unnecessary and inhale nourishment from God.
If growing a garden and eating its produce sounds like too much work and not rest at all, here are some other things that may help bring peace to your mind and rest for your soul:
~ Get outside. Sit in the sun. Walk in the grass. Hike a trail. Have a picnic. Get your hands in the dirt. Play at the park with your kiddos. Look for wildflowers. Watch a sunset. Howl at the moon. Count the stars. Breathe in the goodness of season we are in.
~ Be still. Whether you are a person of faith or not, every single one of us need down time, a time with no agenda, no screens, no input from “out there” and no output of your own input. Simply be.
~ Exercise. Find something you enjoy doing to move your body and do it! It’s good for your muscles, good for your brain and good for the soul.
~ Journal. Get it out of your brain and on to paper. It can be a couple lines every day or a full-on page of thoughts. It can be a gratitude or prayer journal.
~ Limit screen time. This includes phone time, checking emails, social media and news. We were not made to be inundated with information every single second of every single day. We just can’t do it for the whole marathon.
~ Take a nap. Permission granted!
~ Take a bath. Get some Epsom Salts and your favorite blend of essential oils, drink of choice, a good book and go soak!
~ Go fishing. Just make sure if you catch one, you know how to get it off the hook!
~ Light a fire. Is there anything more mesmerizing than staring into a fire?
~ Meditate. Don’t give this to away as some Voo Doo Eastern thing. It’s purpose is to slow down, pay attention to your breathing, your body, and balance out that busy schedule. (I wrote more about not giving this practice away in Meditation is Not a Dirty Word.)
~ Pray/Read the Bible. Stay connected with the One who can bring peace in the midst of chaos and calm the soul like no other.
Like Jeremiah, we are red-blooded human beings who feel compassion for people; we desire judgment for people who do unthinkable evil, all while living during a pandemic and being concerned for our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones.
Take care my friends, we’re in this thing for the long haul!
Go. Plant your garden. Eat its produce. Stay focused on what you can do. Take care of your own soul. Love the person in front of you well.