By Naomi Bosch
May this encourage you to be a blessing wherever you are.
I was born in Germany, grew up in Croatia, then recently moved back to Germany for my studies. I moved 7 times in 21 years, with several shorter stations in between. And I tell you: I know the feeling of homelessness very well. And even when I moved to Rostock it was quite clear from the beginning that I would only stay here for 3 years and I wondered if it’s even worth settling down and investing myself.
One day I read a story in the Bible that completely changed my attitude. There the Jewish people were in a situation that was not entirely different from mine. Far away from their beloved land, they lived in the city of Babylon, which was foreign to them. Then the prophet Jeremiah writes the following letter to the Jewish people living in exile:
“Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because your future depends on its welfare.”
There is no talk of “Pray that you will get out of this terrible place as soon as possible!” No, “settle down and be a blessing to this city,” God directs to his people. So, I gradually let God change my point of view – and experienced some amazing things!
Last summer, I had a crazy thought: “Why not take the Bible literally and actually plant a garden?” And the simple act of gardening became a new spiritual attitude: I am here where God has just planted me and I’m a blessing to others wherever I can.
So I decided, even in this short time I had left, to become a permanent member in a local church. I became part of a local scout’s group, even if it was “only” three years I would invest there. I made my room the most enjoyable and bright place in the world and invited people to it. I read about the history of the city. I got to know the people here. And suddenly, I am happy to be living in Rostock!
Interestingly, Jesus also had almost exactly three years for his world-changing mission in Israel. I’ll leave the part of saving the world to Jesus. But I can imitate him in the way he lived on earth. Jesus was not busy all day preaching and healing people. He spent many hours a day just talking to God, like to a friend. We often see him eating with friends or partying (the very beginning of his mission was a wedding on which he made sure they wouldn’t run out of good wine!). Wherever he went, he left traces of blessing for everyone around him.
Sometimes we act like tourists. We don’t like to make commitments. Why invest in “worldly things” when God will one day bring us to Heaven anyway? Is it worth “wasting” my time on relationships?
Leviticus 25:23 puts things back into perspective. There God says to the Israelites “… the land belongs to God, and you are like foreigners who are allowed to make use of it.”
We are guests in God’s beautiful world. We can enjoy its wealth and goodness. But God also gave us the responsibility to “maintain and protect the garden” (see Genesis 2:15). God “planted” us in a certain place so that we can be a blessing where we are, in every area of life.
Here, too, Jesus is a wonderful example to us. (see Matthew 14:13-21) He had deep compassion for the people around him.
At the same time, he also knew when it was time to withdraw and to spend time with God in solitude. He knew the culture around him and was deeply rooted in it. He read the scriptures and liked to discuss them with the Jewish law teachers, but also clearly distinguished himself on contentious issues.
Jesus had good friends with whom he spent a lot of time (such as Mary, Marta, and Lazarus). He could celebrate and gratefully enjoy God’s good gifts. But he wasted none of it. With his life, Jesus shows what it means to live in a deeply rooted way, and at the same time to see things in eternity’s perspective.
We are citizens of the heaven, but we are also all citizens of the earth. Through deep, local relationships, through care for God’s creation, through a grounded trust in God, and through passing on blessings in the very place we are in, we bring a piece of heaven to earth.
And if God should replant me, I will just grow new, deep roots. Because I know that the groundwater – God’s presence – is the same at every point of the earth. Then, as the Psalmist so beautifully says, we are “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”