If you've attended my “How to Run a Workshop” workshop, you’ll know how much I love the phrase “I Wonder?”. I use it often to start questions; I find it helps to open the mind.
I learnt to wonder myself through Godly Play, a method of exploring God's word through interactive play. Just before I started working at SCM I went on a three-day Godly Play storytelling training course. Each person on the course got to tell one story during the week, and mine was The Exile and The Return. It has powerful imagery of the walls in the temple and the city of Jerusalem being removed (rubbed out in the sand), the people’s footprints as they are walked across the desert, and a chain being dropped between Babylon and Jerusalem to signify that exile meant they could not go home.
It is in this context that one of the most famous and most shared Bible verses sits. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV
It is the verse we use when we want to tell someone that life will be fine, that God has got this. But do you know what? It wasn’t a quick fix for those in exile. We only have to go back one verse, to Jeremiah 29:10 to see that the Israelites were in exile for seventy years. Now, I’m not suggesting that lockdown is going to last that long, or even that we are being religiously or culturally persecuted in the west. However, some of the imagery of exile; of things not being normal, not being able to go to the temple to worship, and not knowing how long this might last, might just be helpful for us today. This may be unprecedented for us, but actually this is an old story that God’s people have lived through before.
If we look at the earlier verses of Jeremiah 29, the people are told to make homes, plant gardens and settle in to life in Babylon - we too in this time are being encouraged to find new routines and find new ways to do our usual things. I’m not saying let’s worry about planting gardens but rather to give ourselves some roots, to make things feel a bit like normal. What does this look like for you?
The people who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon would not have been the same people, and we too will be different after this time. Maybe we will still use zoom to save on travel time, hopefully we’ll take things for granted less. I’m personally looking forward to hot chocolate from the little café near my house, hugging my friends, and talking to strangers on trains.
I wonder if the exile imagery is helpful to you?
I wonder how you are making a home in these times?
I wonder what your dreams and hopes are for life after lockdown?
Watch Rach telling the story of The Exile and The Return on our Youtube channel!