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The Peace of the City

…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. – Jeremiah 29:7

As far back as I can remember, even in earliest childhood, I have always had a nagging sense of separation from the world around me. I felt it in my bones: Something is not right here. This world is not as it was meant to be.

For a long time, I drank deeply from the bitterness of alienation. I believed that goodness consisted in separating myself from the world altogether. I looked for ways to construct an entirely different kind of society. I dreamed of a community that would be entirely off the grid of ordinary life, untarnished by this pervasive sense of deadness, ugliness and compromise.

But I couldn’t grit my teeth and stiff-arm the world forever. Absolute resistance is absolutely exhausting. Eventually, I had to start lowering my standards; letting others in; opening myself to a world that is incomplete, struggling and in pain. I opened the gate – just a crack – to the world.

To my astonishment, I feel increasingly connected to this broken society I was born into. In spite of all my apprehensions and resistance, I am settling down into this land of where God has sent me. I still struggle with this stubborn sense of alienation. The world is still not as it should be. But there is also amazing beauty here – light radiating from the smudged face of Creation.

Despite all the world’s pain and brokenness, how can I open my eyes to beauty and wholeness? What are ways that I can be a blessing to this city where God has placed me, even when I feel like an exile? What does love look like here?