My friend and I were in a deep discussion about the misfortunes in the world, and how our world is like the period when the Israelites were drive into exile by the Babylonians, hundreds of years before Christ. During that conversation, she made this statement: “All you can do sometimes is to stand still and hurt.” I would add these words: “…and hope and pray.”
We used the word “exile” to cover much more ground than being banished from your homeland, as was the case of the Israelites. To me, exile means being separated from a sense of well-being. It’s a condition of “lostness”, or being alone, or left out. It’s being locked up in a cage in your own home (as was the case in Alexandria, recently). Abuse, exile is any number of conditions when your life is rudely interrupted by something that will change you and your lifestyle forever.
Grief is a form of exile that can separate you from your heart. It hurts, and no pill of any kind can relieve you of the pain. All you can do sometimes I just to stand still and hurt…and hope.
Most teenagers know what “exile” is like. Teens in our country, declare sociologists, have lower self-esteem than those in other countries. Many experience a self-imposed exile by running away from home or dropping out of school. They never seem to “fit in” to a culture that values education and success. It’s a wonder that young people don’t feel inferior in our country. Look at the glamour in magazines, movies and other places that show people with perfect skin, figure, etc. We call it “inferiority complex”. It’s a feeling that you don’t really matter, or as one person put it, “You feel like a big, fat zero.”
Consider the sad fact that every 13 seconds, someone in this country takes their life. Suicide is all too common among young people. G. K. Chesterton, outstanding theologian and author, once made a strange remark, “Committing suicide, you insult every flower on Earth.” In other words, as long as there is beauty in this world, it seems strange that a person would want to leave it. A remark like that may be interesting, but it shows that he probably never experienced clinical depression. People suffering depression can’t even see the beauty right under their nose. Everything is a pale gray, without any color at all. Depression is a definite kind of exile, when you feel like the whole world has caved in on you. It is a disease—an illness—the emotional equivalent of cancer, a stroke or a heart attack. As with purely physical diseases, we can love someone and still not be able to save him or her from death.
God, too, loved this person and, like us, would not interfere with his or her freedom. We need not worry too much about how God meets our loved one on the other side. God’s love, unlike ours, goes through locked doors, descends into hellish situations and brings peace where we cannot. I can only wish that people like Robin Williams could have found that kind of peace.
I was reading the other day about a missionary to the Zulus in South Africa. When you’re born a Zulu, you are nursed at your mother’s breast and carried on your mother’s back, with bare skin against her warm body for two years. You have more physical contact and more physical love and affection than most children receive. Each of the children are told that they are very beautiful, because they were uniquely created by God. So, Zulus grow up knowing that beauty doesn’t have anything to do with their hair or their clothes or their faces or their figures. It has to do with the important fact that they are created by God, and so, they are beautiful…period. In this country, we spend billions on make-up and dieting and gimmicks to look younger. We refuse to believe that wrinkles have a unique beauty of their own.
No matter what our age, we need to know that we are beautifully made and that the human body is the greatest piece of artwork in the world. When I see you, I see God’s handiwork, whether you are tall, short, skinny, fat, wrinkled or whatever. Beauty has to do with behavior, also. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “Beauty is as beauty does.” Beauty is an inside job, too.
So, there are all kinds of “exile” in the world, even today. Think of people being bullied out of their own country, as in Syria and other places where leaders are killing their own people. And some of it is due to faulty theology—religiosity—for lack of a better word. They look upon Deity as One who seeks revenge and is always on the side of only a select few.
There is no exile in the world that’s greater than the love of God as revealed in Jesus. Nothing can separate us from that, even though there are times when all we can do is just to stand still and hurt…and hope. Amen.