Reflections of an Exile


Last fall, Apex, launched into a new sermon series walking the church through the Book of 1 Peter called Exile. I remember at the announcement of the series how appropriate I felt like the timing was to be discussing our role as believers in this world in light of the political climate we are living in as Americans. The moral compass of our country feels less and less aligned with that of the bible’s, and so it was feeling more and more like those in Christ were being pushed out of the cultural norm. The preaching was engaging, and at the time I was processing it with more of cultural lenses than a personal inspection.

However, over the holidays a shift happened. I received an email from a family member who felt freedom to bring up issues they saw in the way I was leading myself and my family. Questions regarding the way we parent, the values I’m passing on to my boys, what sort of men will they be were raised.

It hurt.

As I processed this, there were many reactions. Anger, frustration, sadness. But also one of fear. If they felt this way, do others? I feared being a disappointment. I feared not being accepted.

In my haste for peace, I made choices to address this with my family. Discussions happened, apologies exchanged, some hard truth was shared. But as I stepped back and began to really think about what was happening, God began to reveal some truth to me in light of the situation that took place.

I am an Exile. I am in the world, but not of the world. I am set apart. And the world is noticing. But, as an exile, I need not to seek the approval of the world in the way I live as an exile.

In the days after the discussion, I began to feel convicted by some of my own responses to the email. I wanted to be accepted and told I was loved, that people were proud of me and the way I was raising my kids more than anything. I am deeply proud to be a Garrett, and the values I was raised with, almost too a fault.

But seeking worldly acceptance as exiles, has the power to pull us away from the life exiles are called to live. Exiles have a clear purpose: to glorify God. Thus our choices, values, lifestyles are going to look different, not just to be different, but as a reflection of our pursuit of God. We will stand out. We will be rejected. Even by those close to us who don’t see life the same way.

This incident led me to start processing my identity as an exile in a completely new way. Is my identity in Christ priority in my life over that of the world? Am I living as we are called as exiles in other areas of my life?

While processing those deep question, I started our house church through a new video study as a follow-up to the sermon series called For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles. As I was preparing for the our discussion, the first video begins discussion our purpose as exiles being rooted not in 1 Peter, but Jeremiah 29:7:

Seek the welfare of the city where I sent you in exile, and in their welfare, you will find yourself as well.

As I began to wrestle with that verse, I was disturbed by the word “welfare”. I participate in outreaches in the community, but do I care about the welfare of those I serve. What does it mean to seek their welfare?

I spent the next two weeks really wrestling with this verse. In God’s grace, he was illuminating this very pointedly in my life. I meditated on it more than I have on scripture in a long time. I didn’t know what this verse was calling me too, I just knew it felt like whatever it was, it wasn’t true in my life.

But then God revealed something to me. While it’s not true in my life, it’s clearly seen in my spouse. In those two weeks, there were multiple examples of Chelsey freely stopping to seek the welfare of others. Whether it’s picking up the stranger walking alongside the road, or stopping to pray for others, the list goes on. And she does it with our kids in tow, as witnesses.

After wrestling with this, and having my eyes opened to how this was happening right in front of me, I came to this conclusion: seeking the welfare of others is a call to allow our love for God and others to have the freedom to wreck our schedules, our finances, our desires.

It’s amazing to hear your son name off a list of homeless people we’ll need to find and tell about the new homeless shelter in town. He’s met them with Chelsey, and prayed with them. Neighbors are loved on through hospitality that is not in my nature. She has Jeremiah 29:7 built into her DNA, and lives that out even when I am annoyed at the way it screws up our schedules or doesn’t make sense financially.

Personally, God has been very real to me over the last six weeks, graciously working on me in this area, revealing his truth in new ways even as I read scripture that is not new to me. I’m thankful for his providence in placing me in marriage to woman who complements me even when I’m blind to it, and at times, hostile to it.

This is challenging me. For those that know me, you know I am typically very driven by my goals. Setting New Year’s resolutions are a highlight of my year. But this year, I have none. This year, my challenge it to reflect, accept, embrace, and live as an Exile.

In Christ, Andy