Tag Archives: Jeremiah 31

…and a Time to Return

Set up road markers for yourself,
    make yourself signposts;
consider well the highway,
    the road by which you went.
Jeremiah 31:21 (NRSVCE)

A few years ago I had the privilege of watching as a play I wrote was produced a couple of different times on stage. Having spent most of my life journey in the state of Iowa, I’ve observed a repetitive theme of those who leave our rather quiet, fly-over homeland for more exciting places. Yet, eventually, most every one returns home. The reasons for return are as varied as the individuals who leave, but for most every one who leaves there comes a time to return.

There is a good story there,” I thought to myself. And so, I sat down to write a play and tell the story of a small town Iowa boy who is forced to come home. In his returning he must confront his past and the reasons he left in the first place.

Over the past few chapters in the anthology of Jeremiah’s messages, I’ve mulled over the way the themes of wilderness and exile play into life’s journey. There’s a corollary theme in the return from wilderness and exile. Just as the hero of every epic spends time in the wilderness, so that same hero must return to carry out the purposes for which he/she has been prepared.

In today’s chapter, the theme of Jeremiah’s prophetic letter to the exiles living in Babylon is all about their homecoming. “Drop breadcrumbs along the road to Babylon,” he tells them. “Mark the way because the time will come for your return home.”

Sometimes on this life journey I’ve observed that the return home is long awaited and desired, just as Jeremiah describes in today’s chapter. Other times, like the prodigal son, one’s homecoming is filled with remorse and repentance. Then there are those times when the return home is part of a larger story about the necessary confrontation required in order to progress yet further on life’s road. And, I suppose, there are times when coming home is a cocktail of all these.

As this morning dawns, the little town where Wendy and I live is preparing for our annual Tulip Time festival. As happens each year there will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of individuals who will return home to participate in the festivities (we’ll have some of them staying in our house!). I’m thinking about their respective life journeys, the varied stories they represent, and all of the emotions (and perhaps confrontations) that these homecomings will entail. There is a time to leave home, and a time for those living in exile to return.

I’m whispering a prayer in the quiet this morning for each of them, and for God’s goodness and mercy in each of their respective stories.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 31

They found grace out in the desert….” Jeremiah 31:2 (MSG)

The desert is where you find yourself in the midst of wandering. You don’t seek out the desert. It’s not on the list of places you want to be.

“I think I’ll pack a lunch and head out to the desert.” Right.

The deserted wasteland is where you wake up bloodied and bruised with the pounding head of a terrible hangover and rack your brain to remember just what happened the night before. You take a shortcut and suddenly find yourself lost and long delayed there. You seek the fabled fortunes that you heard lay just beyond. Not only do you not find the fortunes, you also can’t find your way out of the wasteland.

I wonder if we all find ourselves in deserts of our own choosing at some point in life. I wonder if it isn’t necessary to the journey. Perhaps it’s just me. I can recall multiple deserts along my own particular trek (I admit it: I’m a slow learner). Maybe that’s why I love the way Jeremiah put it in today’s chapter: The desert is where you find grace. It’s where you find God looking for you, willing to lead you out and lead you forward.

“…I once was lost, but now am found…”

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and liao