AdventWord 2019: 9. Root
Sitting on my couch, broken foot in cast, holiday and life plans completely jacked up, I had my very own conversion experience. But instead of hearing God say, “Go,” I heard him say, very clearly, “Stay.” had counted on selling our house and moving to make me happy. To make my husband happy. To be a new adventure to distract us from all that was broken in our lives. Sitting in a house I had come to have so little regard for, for months on end, with all of our problems piling up around me during the holiday season was not my idea of adventure. And yet, I found comfort in the words of Jeremiah 29 1-14. The simplicity of God’s directions to the Israelites living in a place not of their choosing settled in my heart and sprouted the tiniest bit of hope. And interestingly, I noticed how these verses, including the ones that follow them, reminded me a whole lot of the Rule of St. Benedict whose primary teachings center around these vows:
- stability—God will work in us when we choose to remain where we have been planted, through both the people and the geographical location;
- conversion—we must continually grow and change, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us; and
- obedience—we place Christ and not ourselves at the centers of our lives, thereby learning to love and serve as he loved and served.
Jeremiah 29:1-14 echoes these same ideas. Make yourselves at home here (Stability), work and pray for the good of Babylon (Conversion), and keep looking for me, I am here (Obedience).
As I sat on my couch for months on end, broken foot in boot, heart in throat, I thought a lot about Jeremiah 29, and how these verses intersected with the teachings of St. Benedict, how together they seemed radical and obvious. They were to me a mystical combination. A combination that inspired hope in me that I could find a way to be present to my life, as it was, without throwing out my dreams and desires with the bathwater.
Reading Jeremiah confirmed a suspicion that had begun with reading St. Benedict: balance isn’t a matter of getting what we think will make us happy; it is about cultivating a grateful and present heart right where we are. This realization led to these questions:
- What if, instead of seeking balance, I seek rootedness?
- Can I find a way to live a slower version of modern life?
- Is it possible to slow down, internally, right where I am, without changing my external circumstances—jobs, schools, home, or responsibilities?
Can our family find a way to use the passage from Jeremiah as a scaffolding to help us rebuild the way we live, to do as God instructs through the words of Jeremiah: to put down roots, to plant a garden, to embrace and serve our community, to stop worshiping the greener grass, throw out the pursuit of balance, and instead dig in where we are with gratefulness, no matter our circumstances?
Would this reorientation of our hearts help create a simpler and more sustainable life from the inside out?
I didn’t know, but I was certainly willing to try. As soon as my boot came off, we were going to find out.
Excerpted from At Home in this Life: Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams and Beautiful Surprises by Jerusalem Greer, Staff Officer for Evangelism for The Episcopal Church