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Out of Exile

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

December 7, 2020 |

A few months back, I experienced my first back surgery. This followed 3 months of intense nerve pain & spasms, that started in my back & landed in my right calf. I have had back issues most of my life, but this was different. It made me feel a little nutty, & cranky at times. Consequently, I willingly submitted myself to the recommended procedure, anticipating relief from the debilitating cycle I found myself in.

I came home on day 2 to start my post-op recuperative season…a minimum of 4 weeks of not doing much, within a 12-week total plan for healing. Although the list of restrictions made sense to me, implementing them was a little more challenging. Were it not for the watchful eye of my daughter, I’m convinced my recovery would not have been as successful, or nearly as pleasant, had she not assisted me.

I was not allowed to lift/push/pull more than 5-10#. Additionally, I could not bend or twist. Use your imagination. What daily activities & “functions” can you do without bending or twisting?? 😊 My lower spine wore a 7” strip of staples that readily reminded me why these ideas were not mere suggestions. They were rules. And I was happy to comply as best I knew how. I was sent home with 2 meds that made me so loopy I have no recall of my second & third days at home. I stopped the drugs on the evening of the third day & returned to some semblance of myself during day 4. Clearly, drugs & I are not great partners. Thankfully, I must have a higher pain tolerance because I didn’t think the discomfort was too bad. Ice was my friend & with the aid of pillows, drinks close by, my Bible, good books, occasional naps & some favorite home shows –I was content to stay put as recommended. I also used a walker. When you feel stiff as a board, you are so-o grateful for this helpful support! My “exile” was fully put in place when it was determined that it would be better if the recliner also functioned as my bed.

As God would have it, I had ample opportunities for alone time with Him, pretty much any time of the night, during those 4 weeks. One week out from surgery, I read a devotional by Charles Spurgeon entitled “Work is Done; Rest in Him,” based on Hebrews 4:9. Following are the excerpts that spoke to me in my captive condition. “God has provided a Sabbath, & it remains for the people of God to enter into it…Let us cease from our own works, as God did from His. Let us find solace in the finished work of our Lord Jesus…justice demands no more. Great peace is our portion in Christ Jesus. As to the work of grace in the soul, & the work of the Lord in the souls of others, let us cast these burdens upon the Lord & rest in Him…By faith we labor to enter into the rest of God, & we renounce all rest in self-satisfaction or indolence (laziness). Jesus Himself is perfect rest, & we are to be filled to the brim with Him.

Physical parallels have always been a spiritual teaching aid to me. I see them all around me. So here I sat, watching my daughter run herself ragged every day, meeting both my needs & allowing her dad to tend ministry responsibilities. I could not do anything I normally did without some help or compensation. It was humbling. And sometimes irritating. Occasionally, maddening. I could not lift a finger, so to speak. No shopping, cooking, vacuuming or cleaning. No making the bed, working at my desk, carrying anything anywhere, or showering unattended (in the beginning anyway). I was unable to put on socks or shoes, get dressed, or drive. Until you cannot complete your normal activities, you realize how much you take for granted. My new vulnerabilities were a clear reminder not to be stupid & try to be independent too soon.

As I reflected on my limitations in context of the devotional, God convicted me on 2 points. First, I still want to be in control of certain situations in life because I am used to those specifics being my responsibility. Out of habit, I like the way that I do certain things. Well, guess what? Everything got done, it was done well & I did not suffer from the lack of involvement. We do not help God. He helps us. Secondly, the most painful realization came with the exposure of my motivation. I saw that I often value the completion of tasks because of the self-satisfaction it gives me, the way it feeds my perceived sense of worth & identity. I can feel validated by my own self-effort accomplishments, as opposed to yielding to the Spirit within. As my personal “ticker-tape” of examples ran through my mind, I felt sick to my stomach. I cried. And I repented. When my first concern is how something will affect me, my flesh scurries to take control & I emotionally blunder my way through, trying to find the best solution. Without waiting. Without praying for wisdom. My second-guessing, self-satisfying self-effort is a waste. Though the results might look ok, externally, to other people, they are unaware of the soul-peace that I’ve sacrificed in the process. And God likely did not get one lick of glory! The fact is Jesus already paid for all that is required of me by His Father. I cannot do anything more to enhance or improve God’s view of me. To believe that lie denies the finished work of the Cross. So, He waits…until I am out of energy…until I am out of personal options…until I admit, again, that I cannot change anyone. At that point, my spiritual vision clears & I see He wants my whole heart in the situation I am facing.

God allows us to experience being exiled because He loves us. In times past, He exiled his children from Jerusalem, to Babylon, for 70 years. He told them what to do during their exile. He warned them against false prophets. When that 70 years was done, He told them about His plans for a future filled with hope. He promised to listen to them when they called on Him & prayed to Him. If they searched for Him with all their heart, they would seek Him & find Him. He promised to restore their lives & bring them back home. (See Jeremiah 29: 4-14) Taken out of context, verse 11 has often been extracted as a stand-alone promise for anyone. In Truth, these promises are exclusively to God’s children. There are clearly conditions set that can only be fulfilled in relationship with Him.

If you are feeling exiled, God is calling you home to Himself. This may be the first time you recognized His voice & responded to His tug on your heart. Or He could be affirming that you already belong to Him. Either way, He will never let you go. “Believe God’s love & power more than you believe your own feelings & experiences. Your rock is Christ, & it is not the rock that ebbs and flows, but the sea.” (Samuel Rutherford)

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