By Laura Cerbus, reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
This year has been filled with events that we did not anticipate. They have altered our lives profoundly, and I find myself again and again longing for real life – to teach “for real” and not on Zoom, to go to church “for real” and not on Zoom, to talk with a friend “for real” and not online.
And yet, I make a mistake when I fall into thinking that what I am doing right now is not real life. When I dismiss the present as an aberration, a period of time which is difficult and frustrating and in some ways debilitating, I dismiss also the present as the place where God is working, and where I am called to be faithful.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s imagination.”
When the Israelites lived in Babylon during the exile, they also fell into thinking that the present was not their real life. They longed to go back home, a longing which was a good one, yet it pulled them away from the present. They convinced themselves that they would pursue faithfulness when they returned to Israel.
So Jeremiah, God’s prophet, sends them a letter, a word from God:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.Jeremiah 29:5-7
Our moment is not the same as Israel’s. And yet we need the reminder that the unpleasant things that happen to us, the interruptions, the changes, have not hijacked our real life. They come to us through the providence of a good and gracious God who is working all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). In these moments, not future or imagined ones, we are called to be faithful: to love God and love our neighbors.
Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Laura Cerbus lives and teaches in Melbourne, Australia, where she is becoming acquainted with the beauty and grief of cross-cultural life. Along with her husband and three children, she worships and serves in a local church revitalization. She is the submission editor for Velvet Ashes, an online community for women serving overseas, and she writes at lauracerbus.com.