Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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.
Moving anywhere has its challenges. Foremost, at least for me, is just the act of moving. Packing up, finding boxes, realizing how much stuff you have, leaving some behind, realizing you shouldn't have left your smoker behind, no matter the smoke bowls are rusted through– how now am I going to make bacon?! Obviously leaving your friends is difficult also.
But once you get to the new city there are new challenges. Getting a grasp on the pulse of the city, having to drive everywhere, finding new places eat. For me a big challenge has been trying to find good places to buy food. Farmer's Markets, delicatessens, meat shops, coffee roasters. I know they're there, but I'm still trying to find the ones that I like. Trying to set up my apartment has been a challenge too. For the most part, I'm moved in, but my pictures haven't been hung yet. My bedroom isn't perfectly arranged or picked up.
All of this is made more difficult with the prospect of living in Saint Louis for only one year.
How much effort do I want to put into finding the perfect place to buy coffee?
Is it worth my time and effort to build relationships with where I buy my meat?
Jeremiah seems to think that it is.
The passage above (Jeremiah 29:4-7) the Lord instructs Israel while they're in exile from Jerusalem to live in the city. "Plant gardens, build houses, give your sons and daughters in marriage." These are all major time commitments. Gardens have to be tended. Building houses seems pretty permanent. Giving sons and daughters away in marriage means meaningful relationships have been established. In others words, be a part of society. All of those commands are long term even when Israel didn't want to spend more time than they had to there. But in doing so, they will be blessed. In seeking the welfare of the city, they will find their welfare also.
As Christians, we often overlook the place where we are now preferring to think it'll all burn up in the end, rather than the biblical picture of a renewed heaven and earth (see Rev. 21:5). It is important for me to build relationships with those here in Saint Louis as if my call were a long term one. Why does it matter that I may only be here a year? How much more would my time here be blessed if I involve myself deeply in Saint Louis, investing in those around me, building relationships with my neighbors, eating at neighborhood joints, and immersing myself in Saint Louis' culture? The promise that the passage gives is that my life and the life of the city will be blessed.
Of course, I'll never be a Cardinals fan.