“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” (Jeremiah. 29:11 MSG)

Who wouldn’t like that verse? Seriously, that is a great verse, not just because of the sentiment but because it takes all worries and planning out of our hands and into God’s. I love that verse, but if I’m completely honest (a terribly annoying habit of mine), I haven’t always found contentment with that verse. It’s hard to, really, when events within and beyond our control seem to be the only events present, and they’re not particularly enjoyable events. It helps to look at the verse in its proper context.

The children of Israel were in one of their not so great situations. They were living in exile in Babylon, and they were living under oppression, but God told them to (essentially) live like they were free. He told them not to let their lives stop just because their current circumstances were less than desirable. He says in verses 5-7, and 10:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…” This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place…”

Imagine living in a space that is so far from what you want, from what is comfortable, from how you thought you should be living, and having God tell you that not only will you continue in that space for some period of time, but that you need to learn to get comfortable in that space for said period of time. Clearly, that instruction would have met with a curious and confused little black girl! I think if presented with that instruction, my brows would have furrowed, my hips would have moved to one side, and G-fab Reese would have made an appearance (well, as ghetto fabulous as I’m capable of being… showtunes and all). That call to be better than our circumstances dictate is contrary to all human reasoning, really. Even if we’re able to keep from complaining, it seems like doing anything even remotely productive would be challenging at best. It’s so easy just to sit and wait idly until circumstances, rather, until God changes our circumstances to something our minds determine to be “better.”

But when you know the circumstance isn’t going anywhere for, uh… 70 years, idle waiting, not to be confused with patient waiting, is not the answer, the call or the solution. It’s kind of like God is saying, “I know you don’t like it, but it’s all for a purpose. I’m going to surprise you.” And all you can do is obey Him, knowing that He knows what He’s doing. This is the essence of faith, and faith has its own rewards.

He goes on to say in verses 12 – 14

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

That’s probably my 2nd favorite part of the passage, verse 14 especially. He knows we’re in a banished, exiled state of being, rejected and shamed, but He promised to bring us back to our Jerusalem, “the place from which I carried you into exile,” the place where we once felt the greatest peace and security and strength. I suppose that my Jerusalem is actually Jerusalem, the place where I felt the most serene in recent years. My relationship with Him was so clearly defined and the closeness to Him brought about a renewed spirit, energy and overall purpose in my life. But like Peter, I took my eyes off His eyes, and I started to sink. Gracious God that He is, He pulled me up, bringing me back to “the place.”

So for me living in that space like a free person has meant a letting go of so many things, and in recent weeks I have let go (FOR GOOD) a host of situations and relationships. It’s meant a good deal of deleting and discarding — phone numbers, email addresses, emails, pictures, memories, and beliefs. It’s meant coming to the understanding that moving forward cannot be contingent upon answers and apologies, that knowing the whys and why nots doesn’t change the what is. God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven, and I have such a better appreciation for God’s plans for my life now that I’m out of (or at the tail end of) my exile, and that appreciation came only after I had accepted God’s call to let go and live in that space.

He did, however, allow one why to be revealed to me recently. I could have learned this information several months ago when a friend of mine wanted to share, but God knew that my heart would not have been able to handle all that comes with this knowledge in relation to my situation. Instead I learned less than a week ago that the one who really escorted me through the door to the darkest period in my life has escorted another young woman through an even more life altering door, and he handled it in a less than stellar manner. I have nothing but sympathy for the mother and child, but I praise my Lord in heaven that He spared me this fate. When I told my Nikki about this turn of events, she cried because she immediately saw the hand of God in my life. God had to rip me from a difficult situation aggressively to keep me from putting myself in a similar situation, because I wasn’t going anywhere otherwise! And I sat in the exile doing little to move on until very recently. But now I see clearly that I have a hope for a future that I had actually given up on what seems like 70 years ago.

(This is not to say that God no longer has plans for this new “family”, it’s just not a future that has anything to do with me.)

I think about my future so much these days. I think about God’s mercies new every morning. I think about my changed heart. I think about what real love looks like, feels like, acts like, and I smile knowing that my future isn’t, thank you Jesus, in my hands at all. God’s got it, and He’s revealing it bit by bit to me, cautioning me to wait expectantly on Him and His timing, all while I learn to live in this space. He knows my heart, my hope and my future. What could be better?