I Don't Want To Be Here!

I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t need them to tell me. I could see it in their eyes. I spoke with several Syrian refugee children about their artwork as our Faith Promise partner interpreted for me. Airplanes, bombs, explosions and destruction were all colorfully displayed on the paper. Some of the artwork included what I interpreted as family. There may have been four or five upright stick figures illustrated on the paper and one drawn on the ground or a house on fire. Preschool children can communicate very well through art. Their vocabulary was limited. Their imagination was not.

I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t need her to tell me. I could see it in her eyes. Hundreds of people spoke in hushed tones, smiled briefly and offered words of condolence. The lights were dim, piano music played in the background and the room smelled of a mixture of flowers and heavy perfume. I noticed she mentally checked out every once in a while as she glanced at the urn on the table in the midst of pictures of the life they lived together.

I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t need them to tell me. I could see it in their eyes. They had drifted apart. They fought all the time. She complained loudly with hands actively proclaiming her consternation in the air. He sat defiantly defending every accusation dejected with his arms crossed. I eventually seized an opportunity to ask a question as one of them took a breath. I asked why they had come to me and if their marriage vows were worth keeping.

I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t need him to tell me. I could see it in his eyes. His dream died long ago right along with his bankruptcy. The job search was dehumanizing. It erased his self confidence and played a rugby match with his soul. His family was counting on him. The employment environment was a new landscape he didn’t know how to negotiate. He had always been the captain. He made all the decisions. Now someone else would do that for him.

The essential meaning of exile is that we are where we do not want to be. We are far from home. We are in unfamiliar surroundings. Many times we are forced to be in a place where nothing is recognizable. Desolation, dislocation, distance all lead us to unexplored territory. It’s often hard to discern how we arrived at this destination. Exile is often traumatic and terrifying. Our sense of right and wrong is completely upended. Our worth and significance is easily destroyed in a heap of ruble when don’t fit anymore. No one needs us. We are no longer necessary.

The absolute foreignness of exile can provide a new liberty if one can mute the mental and emotional noise long enough to reasonably assess the situation. Our world is not predictable. We seem to know that on the surface and use that unpredictability to our advantage when the outcomes are favorable. But, its a very different story when we are the alien in a foreign land.

Exile is included in God’s story. We will learn about it Sunday from Jeremiah’s perspective. It is far more complex than any of us can comprehend. I am not sure if anyone can even prepare for exile. The circumstances are often far too complicated to discern while we are travailing through a foreign land. There is one important thing to remember—God is with us. Not in control, not allowing us to wallow in self-pity, not angry nor distant. He’s right in it with us. Emmanuel.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Pastor Jen