Jeremiah prophesied that God’s people would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years. That means a lot of Hebrews lived and died only in Babylon; they never spent a day of their life in the Promised Land. They never saw the temple or traversed the topography of Zion. They were born across the great river, and there they died. Exiles, through and through.
We hear a lot of talk these days about finding God’s best life for you. We talk a lot about destiny and calling, always with the thought in mind that we are meant for something great. God has a great plan for your life that will exceed all your wildest expectations. It sounds so breathtaking and exhilarating–the spiritual equivalent of climbing El Capitan every day for the rest of your life.
But what if you’re meant for only exile? What if you’re one of those people who are born and who die in Babylon? What if God isn’t that interested in making all of your wildest dreams come true? What if he doesn’t care about how satisfying your life is?
Jesus talked a lot about losing your life, and how losing your life for his sake is the only way to really find it. We’ve hijacked that statement, and we’ve dressed up all of our egotistical insecurities about significance and success and greatness and accomplishment into Jesus-clothes. We lay down certain delusions of grandeur only to take up certain others that have been spiritualized and “sanctified”. We become counselors and pastors and professors and public servants; we start non-profits and plant churches because we want our lives to have some kind of significance, and we claim that these vocations, and these tasks, are how we “find significance in Christ”.
But what if finding your life really means losing your life and abandoning all hope of ever finding it again? What if Jesus really meant it when he said that we have to lose our lives for his sake, or that the last shall be first, and the first last? What if following Jesus means never being significant, or successful, or great? What if it means that you will accomplish very little in this lifetime?
Maybe you were born for Babylon. Others may go to Jerusalem, and even call you to follow them there, singing the songs of Zion. But you’re meant for Babylon. You’re one of the folks who has to lose his life, hoping not in unveiled significance later on in this life, but in redemption and resurrection in the life to come. You’re the one who has to throw yourself completely on Jesus and live with him in Babylon. Can you accept it?