Jeremiah 29:1–7, Tending Where We Are

Man planting garden

Verse 7: “Seek the welfare of any city to which I have carried you off, and pray to the Lord for it; on its welfare your welfare will depend.”

This scripture conveys God’s message, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, to the Israelites in exile. The people were instructed to build houses, to plant gardens, to eat the produce, to marry, to propagate, and to seek the welfare of the city where they lived. In other words, they were to thrive and to work for the welfare of their community.

Imagine life if we sought the welfare of our community daily. Our first community is our body-mind. Within the city of [your name], we find the citizens of body sensations, feelings, thoughts, intuitions, desires, longings, feedback loops, and learned patterns (just to name a few). I often refer to these citizens as bits of self or inner characters. Our inner characters are messengers reflecting states of consciousness that activate feelings and beliefs.

We are all familiar with the problematic characters of shame, guilt, and insecurity. When they arise, we often feel separated from our selves. We may say, “I feel off center,” or “I don’t feel like myself today.” I liken this to feeling as if we are in exile. We feel uncomfortable or not at home in our own skin. We struggle with something we experience as alien, other than us.

Our tendency is to try and banish the alien. We do not like to feel discomfort. We may get angry with ourselves and treat ourselves harshly if the newly arrived feeling, desire, longing, or image is not in line with our ego’s sentiments. Negative self-talk, self-hatred, and self-destructive behaviors may kick in to banish or repress the unknown arrival. We disrupt our well-being with nasty responses to bits of our self.

Caring for all parts of our selves is key to the welfare of our body-mind. Welfare means well-being. It also means giving aid to others. We have to give aid to the “other” in us. This other is anything we experience that feels alien to our ego or conscious sense of self.

We create well-being by tending to what is present, to where we are now. When we get angry and punitive, we separate ourselves. Instead of living in community where we work together, we set up divisions that alienate us from parts of ourselves. What affects one aspect of our self, affects all of our self.

The scripture calls us to work for well-being wherever we find ourselves. Even if we feel in exile, separate from our center, we are instructed to aid whatever is arising. This advice goes against collective responses, as our culture makes a pathology and demon of many human experiences, including grief, depression, rage, mistrust, shame, and guilt. Scripture calls us beyond divisiveness to community. In community, we live in relationship to all within so that we may thrive.

We must make our home where we find ourselves if we want to thrive. As we relate to the alien in us, we respond to previously problematic feelings and impulses with our eye towards what our larger Self is doing. We aid each feeling, thought, and impulse in taking its place in the tapestry of our psyche. In the process, previously destructive energies are tempered and begin to work in service of life versus destroying our good. The scripture says, “on its welfare, your welfare depends.” God Within wants us to thrive wherever we are.

Inner Reflection
Where are you feeling in exile? What are the problematic feelings, attitudes, or impulses with which you are struggling? How do you respond to them? Where do you make a pathology or demon of the other?

Ask God Within to give you courage to dialogue with the other. Ask to see how it fits in the whole of your psyche/soul and how to take aligned action for integrating it into the community of you. Set sacred intention to live in community with whatever arises in you.