Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thriving in Exile

"Take off anything you're wearing that has any value, monetary or sentimental," my small group leader Natalie announced.

The faces of six freshmen girls expressed confusion as we obediently began to remove necklaces, belts, and ear rings.

"Take off your jackets.  Your sweatshirts," she continued.  I'm sure if she could have stripped us down to our underwear, she would have just to prove her point.  She did once come to small group in a bathrobe to demonstrate Isaiah's walking around naked for three years (see Isaiah 20).

"We're going into Babylonian exile," she explained.
"Should we bring our Bibles?"
"Your what?"

She then led us out in a January icy drizzle while she played the role of the Babylonians and we were the Israelites.  When we began to shiver, she let us back inside.  Ironically, she accidentally tripped on the sidewalk symbolizing the fall of Babylon.

Looking through the Bible, there are a lot of people who experience exile.  Personally, I've never spent a significant amount of time being oppressed and exiled.  Unless you count being a Lutheran in Baptist Country.  They're usually nice to me if I keep my mouth shut about alcohol and original sin, but let's use it as an example.

I heard a speaker the other day talk about exile.

"The question is not 'Why are we in exile?' or 'How do we get out of exile?'" he explained.  "The question is, 'What is God up to in exile?'"

What is God up to in exile?

What is God up to in your life, wherever you may be?  Sometimes there are things God needs to do in your life that He can only do while you're in exile.

Some Biblical examples of exile show the strengthening of faith while being removed from that which is comfortable.  Here in Baptist Country I've been forced to contemplate and question why I believe in infant baptism, why I don't have a problem drinking wine, and that whole in-with-and-under thing (that I'm still working on).  Things I probably would have simply accepted forever had I not been sent here.

When Daniel experienced his exile (see Daniel 1), his name and the names of all of his friends were changed.   Daniel became Belteshazzar (please name your son that).  Hanniniah, Mishael, and Azariah became Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Their Hebrew names celebrating God's faithfulness were replaced with pagan names.

My name too was changed.  My often mutilated three syllable last name has been axed to two letters.  A pagan name; a murder weapon.  Rack, Shack, and Benny let that one go.  As have I.  To some, I will forever be only Katie Ax.  I think I'm ok with that.  Like Rack, Shack, and Benny, I have to pick my battles.  I'd much rather people realize I'm still a Christian than know I have a whole last name.

God has done (and is doing) some cool things here in my exile.  He even pulled me through a near-hypodermic small group experience.

What's He doing in your exile?  What's He doing in your life right now?

<>< Katie

PS: If you know my whole last name... do NOT post it in the comments section or I will delete your comment.

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